Sask. firefighters gather to learn how to cope with post-incident stress

‘That’s part of why I’m here: being ready for it if something happened near my community’

The 2018 Spring Fire School in Nipawin, Sask., this past weekend drew around 300 volunteer firefighters. (CBC)

Saskatchewan volunteer firefighters gathered this past weekend for training and to learn how to deal with the stress that comes from responding to critical incidents.

This weekend’s annual Spring Fire School happened to be scheduled in Nipawin, near the scene of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash that has claimed the lives of 16 people.

“That’s part of why I’m here: being ready for it if something like that happened in my community,” said Ross Deptuch, the captain of the Rosthern Fire Department.

‘A very difficult job’

Coping with the stress that comes from responding to critical incidents was part of the weekend’s training roster.

“Firefighters are required to do a very difficult job,” said Deptuch. “It’s fast-response and you’re expected to do a wide range of things. Different people react to things different. And it affects people differently. So you want to be able to help those that need help, and be helped by others.”

At the other end of the experience level was 18-year-old recent high school graduate Andrew Sutherland.

He volunteers for the fire department in a community of only 550, so he knows most of the people on the calls he responds to.

“You just gotta treat it like you don’t know the people, and just hope for the best,” said Sutherland.

‘They’re so strong’

The fire hall itself is a safe place where firefighters can gather to talk on a monthly basis and even discuss their personal difficulties, said Sutherland.

Sutherland commended the people who helped at the scene of the Broncos bus crash.

“It’s tremendous how they could handle that,” he said. “I know eventually I want to get myself to this point. They’re so strong for being able to do that. I can’t imagine what they went through and are still going through.”

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