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Firefighters Find Ways To Cope With Recent Spike In Deaths

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Oklahoma City firefighters were reunited with a couple Friday, after saving a man who suffered a heart attack while walking his dog late last year. It was a welcomed breather for the first responders, who have had to battle an unusually high number of fatal fires recently.

In the first month of 2018, there have been nearly as many fire fatalities as the entire year of 2017, and the emotional stress is starting to take its toll.

“We’ve had now nine fatalities in the past 11 days,” says Battalion Chief Benny Fulkerson, "and I can’t remember a time when we’ve had that many fatalities that quickly."

1/9/18 Related Story: 2 People Dead After NW OKC House Fire

1/10/18 Related Story: Man Dies After Fire In NW OKC Home

1/13/18 Related Story: Fire Fatalities At Six So Far This Year In OKC

1/15/18 Related Story: Triple Fatal Fire Shows Homeless Problem In OKC

1/17/18 Related Story: One Dead After SW OKC House Fire

Fulkerson says besides the grief of a life lost, what is frustrating firefighters most right now is the preventability of all of these deaths. None of the victims had working smoke detectors installed in their homes.

Fulkerson adds, “We always ask ourselves, 'How did that person not get our message? What could we have done better or differently?'”

When the stress becomes too much, the fire department has a team of trained staff members to help them get through.

“It’s counseling,” explains Fulkerson. “It’s talking about it in a very organized and documented environment.”

The times when firefighters save lives can often outweigh the bad. A few months ago, Jim Resh was on his weekly walk with his boxer Bella, when he suffered a massive heart attack. Firefighter Steve Leissner happened to be driving by at the exact moment Jim collapsed, and he jumped into action, performing CPR and calling Engine 34 to the scene.

Jim would not be here today without the firefighters’ help.

“Just keep doing what you’re doing,” Jim’s wife, Jacqueline, told the men. “It does make a difference.”

While you may think a fire or medical emergency is unlikely to happen to you, it is better to be safe than sorry. Firefighters urge you to have both working smoke detectors and an escape plan in case of emergency. If you need help setting up either of those, contact your local fire station.

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