MONTPELIER - It was the kind of traumatic call that firefighters would never forget: Nearly two decades ago, a St. Johnsbury firefighter died in a building collapse.
Fire Capt. Bradley Reed, who was on the scene that day but not directly involved, recalled the incident this week as one example of the trauma that firefighters face on a regular basis. Emergency workers guide others out of horror— car crashes, medical calls, the destruction of Tropical Storm Irene — but fear and stigma can keep them from getting mental health treatment for themselves.
"To say that you're a firefighter and you should be tough enough to deal with things like that because it's part of the dangers of your job, to me, quite frankly is hard to believe," Reed said of the death of the St. Johnsbury firefighter in 1999. "Because we are humans at the end of the day."
Reed helped to shape a bill in the Vermont Legislature that would make it easier for emergency workers to file workers' compensation claims for post-traumatic stress disorder up to three years after retirement. H.197, which was advanced by the House of Representatives on Thursday, would also clarify that all workers in Vermont can make workers' compensation claims for job-related mental injuries.