Firefighters reflect on hardships when responding to fatal calls - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Firefighters reflect on hardships when responding to fatal calls

First responders worked to bring awareness to the difficulties they see in their line of work. (Source: WALB) First responders worked to bring awareness to the difficulties they see in their line of work. (Source: WALB)
This is the third year in a row that more firefighters have committed suicide than died in the line of duty nationwide. (Source: WALB) This is the third year in a row that more firefighters have committed suicide than died in the line of duty nationwide. (Source: WALB)
The Albany Fire Department actively works to keep that tragedy from striking. (Source: WALB) The Albany Fire Department actively works to keep that tragedy from striking. (Source: WALB)
Jerry Johnson, a firefighter, tried to rescue A'Daesha Holley, 8, who died Thanksgiving Day in a tragic car wreck. (Source: WALB) Jerry Johnson, a firefighter, tried to rescue A'Daesha Holley, 8, who died Thanksgiving Day in a tragic car wreck. (Source: WALB)
Battalion Chief Keith Ambrose said the downtime after responding to what he calls "horrific scenes" can cause intense stress. (Source: WALB) Battalion Chief Keith Ambrose said the downtime after responding to what he calls "horrific scenes" can cause intense stress. (Source: WALB)
ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

Almost a week after a crash killed a Dougherty County Police officer and a little girl, first responders worked to bring awareness to the difficulties they see in their line of work.

"Once I got there, and I saw it was a little girl...I didn't know what was going on but knew I had to get her out to get her some help," said Jerry Johnson, who tried to rescue A'Daesha Holley, 8, who died Thanksgiving Day in that tragic car wreck on County Line Road in Dougherty County.

This is the third year in a row that more firefighters have committed suicide than the number of firefighters who died in the line of duty nationwide.

The Albany Fire Department actively works to keep that tragedy from striking.

Johnson referred to his training when talking about how these types of scenes impact him and his work. 

"When you get there, you kind of go to a mode that 'my training...I got to get them out, I got to do what I got to do,'" he said.

Johnson says the gravity of that crash, that also killed Dougherty County Police Sgt. Steve Davis, has taken a toll on him the past few days.

"I got grandkids and two daughters," he said. "I want to probably spend more time with them, hug them more, because you never know when could be the last time."

Johnson said his sister called him the next morning with a message about his role in trying to save the little girl.

"She said, 'you didn't realize how close the Lord was to you that day at the scene, because you took the girl and set her on the ground.' All I did was hand her over to Him, and He took her on to glory."

The situation brings up a question of how firefighters deal with the tough things they see day to day.

"A lot of times, we're out and about and we run into situations that, 'wow I've been trained for this, but now what am I going to do,'" said Johnson's Battalion Chief, Keith Ambrose.

Ambrose said the downtime after responding to what he calls "horrific scenes" can cause intense stress.

"In the fire department, nationwide for the past three years, we've had more suicides by firefighters than line-of-duty deaths."

The Albany Fire Department has a counselor in-house to help after tragedies, like the one last Thursday.

"When we got up that morning, he was at the station at 7 o' clock," said Johnson. "We knew why he was there. He was so easy to talk to. He prayed with us and just made the rest of the day go better."

For most firefighters, including Johnson, no matter what they see, they'll get up the next day and continue saving lives as they've trained to do.

AFD's counselor makes himself available to firefighters after every tough scene they encounter.

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