While their hearts are heavy, New Haven firefighters continue to take their community’s calls.
“We are battling various fronts right now,” said New Haven Assistant Fire Chief Justin McCarthy.
The department is mourning more than just the tragic loss of firefighter Ricardo Torres Jr. who died in the line of duty Wednesday.
Friday is the funeral for another firefighter, William McMillan. The 27-year-old died suddenly over the weekend.
And add to that, they’ve endured a stressful year of pandemic response too.
“It’s a testament to the fire department and the city employees that we have that even in this time of tragedy, they get up, come to work to keep people safe,” said New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker.
“They’re human before they assume a badge and their human during and they’re human after,” said Phyllis DiGioia, owner and executive director of Honor Wellness Center in Manchester.
DiGioia specializes in care for public safety, first responders, veterans and their families.
She reminds firefighters it’s OK to not be OK right now and that there is help out there.
The Elm City’s fire department says health care professionals are working with members on site and peer support services are available too.
They’ve been filling shifts for those who need time off with firefighters who want to work.
McCarthy says for some being back on the clock is part of the healing process.
Meanwhile, what can community members do to help?
“I think the most important thing for people to do is that if they know a firefighter, reach out to them, I think that’s the thing we’ve been encouraging everyone to do,” said McCarthy.
DiGioia also suggests thanking your local first responders and serving them by perhaps dropping off food or donating to a cause near and dear to their heart.
She says loved ones of the first responders should not be forgotten either.
The community has rallied to support the families of the firefighters, almost $200,000 had already been raised in a GoFundMe for Torres’ family.
“I’ve seen a lot of burned out buildings in my day, but it makes it more poignant when you see a firefighter was killed there,” said Kevin McKeon.
The retired lieutenant paid his respects to the department Thursday, alongside a retired dispatcher. They brought flowers.
“I didn’t know him (Torres) personally, I didn’t know him, but we all feel the loss as we would of any firefighters or first responders would.”
While investigators are asking folks to say away from the valley street scene as it’s still an active investigation, fire department and city leaders are grateful for community members from near and far for their support.
“This is a tough time for all of us and on behalf of the New Haven Fire Department I just want to say thank you to everyone,” said McCarthy.