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West Chester calls in counselors to help firefighters, paramedics cope with unusually violent year

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Posted at 12:24 AM, Jul 17, 2021

WEST CHESTER, Ohio — West Chester firefighters and paramedics spent the night of July 13 at a house fire that claimed three lives. Exactly a week earlier, on July 6, they’d been at the scene of a murder-suicide on Revere Run.

“It’s just stacked up,” said Chief Rick Prinz on Friday night. "It’s more deadly incidents grouped more closely together than is usual for their small community, which hadn’t experienced a deadly fire for 10 years until 2021. “And it’s kind of taking a toll.”

All of the first responders in his department will have the option to receive group counseling for extra mental health support during the coming week.

Prinz said he wants to ensure his staff is OK after dealing with the unusual number of deadly emergencies, which have also included car crashes and suicides.

“That takes a toll on our responders,” he said. “When we’re on the scene, not only do we witness those horrific scenes, but we’re also witnessing and empathizing with the families who are grieving. As chief, I felt like we need to do something to get ahead of the curve should something not really be right.”

Firefighter-paramedic Jason Jeffers said members of his crew lean on each other for support after responding to traumatic events.

“For me, I have a really good support system with my crew, the guys that I work with directly,” he said. “And we all really take care of each other.”

The first of the scheduled counseling sessions will take place Monday.