Faith and Fire

by Jacquetta Gomes

Faith and Fire is an independent partnership in the United Kingdom between some Fire and Rescue Services (FRS), and faith communities to develop mutual respect. It also increases the awareness of faiths to FRS staff and volunteers.

Faith and Fire has a website which offers a resource for FRSs by offering information on topics including Chaplaincy, faiths, interfaith, death and dying, mindfulness, PTSD and trauma. Faith and Fire welcomes relevant submissions to the website.

Faith Leaders and some UK Fire and Rescue Services are currently represented on the Faith and Fire Steering Group.

The World Congress of Faiths supports Faith and Fire and is represented on the Steering Group. Jacquetta Gomes spoke on “Faith and Fire – Partnership: Fire Officers and Faith Communities” at the Religious Freedom Responsibility for Planet and People conference, 20-23 August 2013 in Horsham, West Sussex, England UK hosted by the International Association for Religious Freedom, the World Congress of Faiths and the Horsham Interfaith Forum. The Conference book, which includes her talk: Religious Freedom and Responsibility For Planet and People, IARF International Association for Religious Freedom, 2013. (ISBN 978-0-9538172-2-1).

Faith and Fire was started in 2013 by Fire Officer Daryl Oprey [the then CFOA Chief Fire Officers Association Lead on Equality and Inclusion] and Jacquetta Gomes [his then Advisor on Interfaith and Multifaith]. Faith and Fire developed from work they undertook in 2012 with BGKT Buddhist Group of Kendal (Theravada), Ketumati Buddhist Vihara Manchester, and the MBC Manchester Buddhist Convention.

In 2012 Fire Officer Daryl Oprey stated “With respect to the Fire Service involvement it is around us being a more inclusive, aware and conspicuous service not just about dealing with tragedy but preventing it. We treat everyone as members of society and appreciate that our service delivery needs to be shown as being adaptable and considerate of all faiths and cultures. It is not enough to believe that ‘one size fits all’.”

Buddhist and Multifaith Fire Chaplaincy
Information on Buddhist and Multifaith Fire Chaplaincy is available on the Faith and Fire website:

Damaged: A First Responder’s Experiences Handling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

by James Meuer, NREMTP

“And if I could tell you one thing it would be, you’re not as broken as you think you are. Sure, you have a couple of scars, and a couple bad memories, but then again all great heroes do.”

People have scars in all sorts of unexpected places. Like secret roadmaps of their personal histories, diagrams of all their old wounds. Most of our wounds heal, leaving nothing behind but a scar. But then again some of them don’t. Some wounds we carry with us everywhere and though the cut’s long gone, the pain still lingers.

“PTSD is a physiological response to noticeably abnormal situations. It involves specific chemical changes in the brain that occur in response to experiencing a traumatic event. Many of the PTSD symptoms appear as a direct result of these brain changes. It is a medical disorder that sometimes causes serious disability.” ~Excerpt from the book, Damaged: A First Responder’s Experiences Handling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Continue reading “Damaged: A First Responder’s Experiences Handling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”

Fire Chaplaincy in the United Kingdom

by Nick Rutter
UK Fire & Rescue Service Chaplains’ Association of the United Kingdom and Islands (FRSCA)

The UK Fire & Rescue Service Chaplains’ Association of the United Kingdom and Islands (FRSCA) has grown dramatically in the last three years; supporting and developing pastoral care for one of the UK’s front-line emergency services. Continue reading “Fire Chaplaincy in the United Kingdom”

Watching Out for Each Other (firefighter ptsd)

by Chris Sterricker, Firefighter/Paramedic
DuPage County, Illinois

Editor’s Note: Although Chris wrote this article in August 2012 about the movie theater bombing in Aurora, Colorado, I thought it was a very timely piece to share following the Boston Marathon tragedy on April 15, 2013. Continue reading “Watching Out for Each Other (firefighter ptsd)”

“Going In”

by Skip Straus Emergency Ministries

GOD gives us the courage and strength to do what we do. And HE gives us a promise – that HE will be with us wherever we go!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

Continue reading ““Going In””

The Worst of the Worst (FDNY ptsd)

by Robert Rainey
Captain (Retired)
Fire Department City of New York (FDNY)

My name is Robert Rainey and I’m a firefighter. For almost 40 years, I have been a firefighter and fire officer, of which over 30 years were with the F.D.N.Y. I retired in July of 2000 as the Captain/Company Commander of Engine 26 located near Times Square in Midtown Manhattan. In addition to being an active Fire Officer, I was, and continue to be, a trained Peer Counselor for the Counseling Service Unit of the F.D.N.Y.

What follows is my own experiences and story of the events of September 11, 2001. I speak only for myself and not the F.D.N.Y. Continue reading “The Worst of the Worst (FDNY ptsd)”

What is Bi-Polar Disorder?

by Mary Moonen, LCSW, CAP

Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder that describes a person who is suffering from severe mood swings

This disorder was formerly called Manic Depression, but is now referred to as Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder that describes a person who is suffering from severe mood swings; usually alternating between episodes of feeling depression and then having an extreme shift in their mood called “manic” episodes. This is believed to be caused, at least in part, to a chemical imbalance of the neurotransmitters in the brain. The term bipolar can be thought of “polar opposites” in the generic sense, although some people have what is called “Unipolar”. These different names can be confusing for lay people as well as professionals, so I have laid out some basic concepts. Continue reading “What is Bi-Polar Disorder?”

The Importance of the Relationship Between Supervisors and Member’s Families

by Syd Gravel

In 1988, over 25 years ago, as a constable, I was one of the founding members of a group of police officers who decided to help each other as peers. Each of us had either fatally shot a person as a result of our duty to our citizens, or been shot and survived.

As a result of this work and my subsequently becoming a sergeant and then staff sergeant before retirement I have often been asked by other front line supervisors what they need to look for and be aware of if one of their members is showing signs of not reacting well to trauma. Continue reading “The Importance of the Relationship Between Supervisors and Member’s Families”

What I Wish I Had Known

by Sylvio (Syd) A Gravel, M.O.M.
Staff Sergeant (Retired)), Ottawa Police Service

The following has been reprinted with the permission of the author and is an extract from various sections within his book,How to Survive PTSD and Build Peer Support

Syd Gravel

My story is no different from those of hundreds of other police officers who become involved in one or several traumatic incidents. My story, similar to those of many others, simply set off  reactions that were unfamiliar to me at the time. However, in telling my story many of you will be able to relate to me and the points I address in this article.

Up until I experienced those fifty-six seconds, where I went from being a police officer patrolling the streets of Ottawa, to suddenly being a suspect of manslaughter as a result of making a split second decision to shoot a suspect, I had thought of myself as a fairly stable guy, with some great street sense and solid character, who was able to work through any trauma that I saw or experienced as a police officer and as I believed I was expected to. Continue reading “What I Wish I Had Known”

Keeping the Rescuers Rescued

by Captain Rick Smith (retired)
Santa Maria (CA) Fire Department (1982-2012)

Trust, peer involvement, early intervention and Union buy-in are all critical in addressing the stress and emotional disorders that afflict firefighters. In December of 2010, I had had enough of the eventual stressors that had plagued me for the past 33 years of being a firefighter.

I had been dealing with claustrophobia since early in 2008. I had no idea what and/or how the claustrophobia was affecting me in both my daily living and at the Firehouse. I was sleeping for as little as two hours a night, I was having night terrors and, at times, a feeling of being awake but I couldn’t move my body. I was having uncontrolled nose bleeds, rashes and just an overall feeling that I didn’t want to be at the Firehouse any more than I had to be. I avoided working any overtime unless being force hired. Continue reading “Keeping the Rescuers Rescued”