FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – When a firefighter is killed in the line of duty, that loss is felt across the country through a strong a bond at the heart of firefighter. It’s a connection of brotherhood and sisterhood that is at its strongest in the face of tragedy.
“We all do the same job. Fire doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 70-story building or a little one-story bungalow in the country, we all fight fire and we can all relate to what we do,” TR Hagerty with the Angola Fire Department said.
Hagerty is a third generation firefighter who’s been on the job for 24 years.
“Public safety is one big brotherhood: fire, police and EMS. You’re not going to find that in other jobs,” he said. “People have told me we’re cut from a different breed. We go running in when everyone else goes running out.”
“You can picture yourself in a very similar situation. Most of the time it goes favorable to you. Sometimes it does not. The events are so catastrophic the chance for the guys to recover from it aren’t there,” Ron Privett, an assistant chief with the Fort Wayne Fire Department, said. Privett’s been a firefighter for almost 29 years.
When a hero falls, firefighters from coast to coast will come to the funerals of a man or woman they never met.
“The brothers come from everywhere to support the fallen. It’s a numbing feeling. It just really shows the support we really do have and the love of the job of public safety. Fire, police, EMS, we’re all there for each other,” Hagerty said.
While still heartbreaking, firefighters will also try to learn from the loss.
“You listen to radio traffic and listen to reports to learn what happened. What put them in that situation? You learn from the tragedy. You have to learn, unfortunately, from other people’s tragedies,” Hagerty said.
Firefighters have hours and hours of training and education so they can save lives when the call comes in.
“A hundred runs can be perfect, but 101 can change that completely. You need to learn from those and have the compassion to learn from them. Every single fireman … takes a loss to heart. That’s why there’s such a brotherhood,” Privett said.
Many firefighters will say it’s not just a job. It’s a passion and a calling to protect the public, despite the danger.
“I don’t think you’ll find a firefighter around that won’t say that’s what it’s all about. That’s when everything is clicking and you’re on the top of your game. You’re in the best place you can be when you are going and they need your help. We have the training. We have the knowledge. We have the education and the equipment to go in and make a difference. There’s not a person on the job who doesn’t want to be on that nozzle or the first one in the door to make a difference in the fire,” Privett said.
A line-of-duty death is also a reminder to the community of the sacrifices emergency responders make.
“When they call fire or police or EMS, they’re having a bad day and we’re trying, as best we can, to make that outcome better. Just support us. It’s not easy. Support people in public safety. It’s not just fire, but police and EMS too. They all have the same tragedies. Police officers die in the line of duty. You have to support your public safety and it’s tough,” Hagerty said.