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October 01, 2012 10:02 PM

Mitchell Firefighters Reflect On Trying Year

Mitchell, SD

The year isn't even over, but the Mitchell Fire Department has already seen more fires than in 2010 and 2011.

That includes two fires in just the past week. The latest one on Saturday morning resulted in the death of a 59-year-old woman.  But the only thing Mitchell firefighters can do is keep up the battle.

"Every fire, we always learn something new," Mitchell Assistant Fire Chief Paul Morris said.

The education for the Mitchell Fire Department never stops. But unfortunately, they've been doing plenty of hands-on learning in 2012.

"You do kind of wonder what's going on here, but there's been really nothing unusual or strange about them," Morris said. "We're just getting a flurry of fires this year for some reason."

That includes a fatal trailer home fire just two days ago, Mitchell's second fire death this year.

"We do a lot of training for it," Mitchell firefighter Chad Cody said. "But it's hard to train for some of those fires with a fatality. It's just hard to deal with."

"There really is no emotion at the time of the event," Mitchell Fire Captain Ben Vanden Hoek said. "The emotion sets in after the fact."

Vanden Hoek and his crew responded to that fire. But in the heat of battle, they have to keep their cool.

"You never get used to it," Vanden Hoek said. "You just learn how to deal with it."

And that's the mentality the entire department has to maintain because they never know what can come next or when it comes next.

"You've got to just keep going at it," Cody said.

"You just keep pushing on," Vanden Hoek said.

Morris says the department has a stress management team to help firefighters cope with any emotional or mental issues from the job.

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