09/27/13 — Red Cross, city firefighters practice emergency skills

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Red Cross, city firefighters practice emergency skills

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on September 27, 2013 1:46 PM

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Goldsboro firefighters pause for a break at the Red Cross mobile unit during a training exercise off Holly Street on Thursday.

Firefighters often risk their lives to save people from burning buildings, but who is there to help them when they are parched from the heat and smoke or come upon first hand the loss of a human life?

That's where the Salvation Army and American Red Cross come in. They can be found at any fire or natural disaster, not only helping the victims, but also the firemen.

To show the community exactly what they do, both organizations took part in a house burning Thursday on Holly Street. The building was an old house owned by the Salvation Army that the fire department has used for several months to practice on.

As the firemen began a controlled burn on the house behind the Salvation Army's shelter, representatives from both groups were on hand for support-- both physical and emotional.

The Salvation Army provided cool drinks for the firemen and cooked a meal in its canteen and the Wayne County chapter of the American Red Cross was on hand with water and snacks.

Salvation Army commander Lt. Kenny Igleheart said the organization does what it does for the firemen because they risk their lives daily for others.

"So we want to offer our support to them," he said.

And that includes spiritual support.

"Some of the things they see as emergency personnel are not nice scenes," Igleheart said. "Hopefully we here as pastors and chaplains can help them maybe get through those situations. They're human beings, too.

"And we hope we can help the family members that the actually disaster is happening to as well."

The Salvation Army's Lt. Julie Igleheart said a lot of people think of firefighters as big, tough guys.

"People think nothing bothers these firefighters," she said. "But they see a lot of stuff. If they go into a house and there's a dead body on the floor burned to a crisp, that takes a toll on them. We pray with them."

The Red Cross' disaster response specialist Matthew Warren said the organization responds to a house fire when notified by the fire department.

One of its main jobs is to take care of the family's needs, such as shelter, food and clothing.

"Even if it's in the middle of the night, we'll put a family up in hotel if they need it," he said. "We also try to get the family away from the situation (their home burning) so the firefighters can do their job. And we listen to the victims and let them tell their story. A lot of our disaster action team volunteers are also trained in psychological first aid, dealing with mental health."

And the Red Cross is also there for the firefighters.

"We bring the firemen water and snacks, and sometimes even dinner," he said. "A fire takes a toll on everyone and even a hug can go a long way."

Having been a firefighter for more than 15 years, Ronnie Barnes said it's a good sight to see the Salvation Army and Red Cross pulling up to a fire with cold drinks and a little food.

"It replenishes us when we're hot and tired," he said. "It's definitely something we need and we appreciate what they do for us."

Fellow firefighter Brandon Sutton agreed.

"In all the fires, we get really hot and tired and sometimes we can get drained," he said. "Even if they just give us a cup of water, that's something less we have to worry about. Somebody's there to have our backs as we're trying to save somebody's home and do what we can for the community."

And Sutton has seen firsthand how the Salvation Army and the Red Cross has helped the victims of a fire.

Carnel Britt said it builds moral when both organizations turn out to help not only them, but the fire victims.

"We definitely need them" he said.

Goldsboro Fire Department fire chief Gary Whaley said the Salvation Army and Red Cross are an asset to this city.

"They are both very vital to our department," he said, "assisting with food. When we've been out on a long call, their services are invaluable to us.

"Also, when we have a family that's been burned out in the middle of the night and we don't know what we're going to do with them, it's so wonderful to know we can call on the Red Cross and Salvation Army. We're so thankful for them and we do everything we can to support them when we can."