Local firefighters deal with physical and mental tolls of the job

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) – Whether they are putting out a house fire or working the scene of a car accident, the things firefighters see and do every day can have an impact on their physical and mental health.

Many firefighters have to see chiropractors because the heavy equipment they wear takes a toll on their bodies.

“The air packs over time start wearing you down, the helmets are a little bit awkward as far as the weight distribution sometimes so you have some neck pains, of course lifting heavy things in and out of the units can cause back problems,” Tyler Burgoyne, Master Firefighter at Harrisonburg Fire Department said.

Many firefighters do physical therapy and exercise daily to stay in shape for the job, but that doesn’t always prevent injuries.

“You still have your injuries, knees, elbows, shoulders, backs, it just takes a toll on you,” Captain Kris Whitesell with HFD said.

Physical pain isn’t the only thing that takes a toll on firefighters.

“We don’t see the nasty stuff every day, constantly, but we do see some nasty stuff and it does after a while of seeing it over and over does wear on you mentally,” Burgoyne said.

Responding to consistent calls and never getting a minute to unpack what may have just happened at a scene can be the hardest part.

“I know a lot of stuff that I think about is we’ll show up at your worst time of your life and we’re there for 10 or 15 minutes trying to handle, fix, and make better, what not, and then when we leave there we don’t know the outcome,” Captain Whitsell said.

However, these men and women find ways to cope and unwind when they leave the station.

“The more you can do outside of the job like fishing, hunting, stuff like that, that really helps you out … exercising helps a lot too,” Brett Biddle, Master Firefighter with HFD said.

For some, it’s spending time outdoors. Others find their roots in their family at home.

“I like to go hiking and camping, my family comes along with me we do that kind of stuff together just to decompress and forget about all the other things,” Burgoyne said.

Although family at home has an important impact on helping the firefighters stay in a good headspace, the family that is created at the station with the people who know exactly what you’re going through helps ground those who may be struggling.

“We’re a pretty big family here, so if we start having problems we can go to our coworkers and everything and talk to them they a lot of times will help you through it,” Biddle said.

No matter how hard their job may get, nothing is going to stop these firefighters from showing up to work every day.

“If we don’t sleep all night tonight, we’re gonna complain in the morning, but we’re still gonna be glad we worked here last night,” Captain Whitesell said.

Copyright 2022 WHSV. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: