Berks County group offers help to first responders who witness tragedy

  • Rachel McDevitt/StateImpact Pennsylvania

(Harrisburg) — A group of midstate chaplains is hoping to help area first responders who witness tragedies on the job.

Kindall Wann founded the Berks County Fire Chaplains Network last July, after learning first responders are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty.

Wann has been a firefighter with Womelsdorf Volunteer Fire Company since 2007 and also serves as the company’s chaplain.

Not all stations have a chaplain, but Wann said he wants all area firefighters to have a resource for dealing with the trauma of the job.

“And I’ve had–just off the top of my head–I’ll say three firefighters within the last two or three months share things that they’ve seen on the ground and when we’re done talking the relief off their shoulders is incredible,” Wann said.

Courtesy Kindall Wann

Members of the Berks County Fire Chaplains Network.

Wann said he hopes to offer more suicide prevention training after the first one in January saw a strong community reaction. The group is also planning to help first responders care for people with autism on scene.

“We don’t know of any fire companies in our area that do anything like training, education for first responders,” Wann said. “So, our hope is, when we roll this out, is to impact first responders and citizens so that they’re all uniform.”

Wann said firefighters who need someone to talk to can reach out to a chaplain through their station or through the group’s Facebook page.

Similar groups exist in Lancaster and Lebanon counties.

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