First responders fight more than fires; fight off mental demons

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BLUE GRASS, Iowa-- Days ago this boarded burnt up building on Salem Street was a home. Now there are no signs of life, just signs of lives lost.

"Everybody who does this job has a few situations that stay with you for the rest of your life," says Blue Grass Police Officer Shawn Sullivan.

Officer Sullivan was on that Salem Street scene that Christmas morning.

Blue Grass police say Larry and Rose Loose, as well as their son Steven, died in the fire. Their other son Michael was pulled from the burning house and later died at the hospital.

First responders can walk away from scenes like this one, but sometimes a scene never really goes away.

"It's only been recently we've really started to recognize the mental health aspect of seeing really horrible things, sometimes on a daily basis," says Sullivan.

"Anytime you respond to any type of fatality, it definitely adds a lot of emotional stress," says Davenport Interim Fire Marshal Jim Morris.

In Davenport a fire claimed the lives of a mom and her four children just last week.

"Most of us here have children, some the exact age," says Morris.

It can be a crushing emotional blow for these men and women trained to save lives.

"Usually after a large incident, there will be a stress debrief where they have trained counselors come in. It's your time to share with other what you're feeling, what's going on," says Sullivan.

Departments have psychologists, chaplains, pastors and other resources available before it's too late.

"The number one killer of law enforcement officers is suicide," says Sullivan. "You could be the strongest person in the world physically, but if you're not okay mentally, that's not going to do you too much good."

Sometimes tragedies like these can leave behind more victims than anybody realizes.

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