Oakbrook Terrace chief: Fire, shootings 'traumatizing'
Oakbrook Terrace Fire Chief Gregory Sebesta said he is carefully monitoring his personnel for signs of critical incident stress after they responded Tuesday to the scene of four fatal shootings and a fire in unincorporated DuPage County.
Oakbrook Terrace firefighters were among the first 15 responders to arrive about 7:15 a.m. to a burning home in the 0S700 block of Summit Avenue just north of Roosevelt Road -- and they stayed until about 7 p.m., Sebesta said.
Finding four bodies in a home with "heavy fire" in multiple locations is not something fire personnel in the village deal with very often. Sebesta said Tuesday's tragedy is the most "dramatic" and "traumatizing" in his 30 years with the Oakbrook Terrace Fire Protection District.
"This is the most (fatalities) we've had as far as a single incident," Sebesta said.
He said he has made fire district employees aware of services available from the Northern Illinois Critical Incident Stress Management Team, which offers tips such as getting extra rest, spending time with others and alternating periods of exercise with relaxation to ease physical symptoms. Sebesta said counselors also can be made available if emergency responders need someone to talk with.
Fire Chief Mark Duski, of Villa Park and Fire Chief Andy Bonomo, of the York Center Fire Protection District helped provide stress management services while Sebesta was still busy with the fire.
"We're still human," Sebesta said. "We still have physical setbacks; we still have emotional setbacks."
Sometimes stress caused by responding to a scene like Tuesday's blaze won't manifest for several months, similar to post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by some military personnel, Sebesta said.
But as the investigation into the fire's cause continues, Sebesta said firefighters will try to learn what they can from responding to the call.
"As emergency workers, we can't go back and change the outcome of the events," he said. "All we can do is learn from it."