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Shining Light on Behavioral Health Needs of Firefighters with Spartan Axe Dedication Ceremony

Jamie McIntyre, Community Risk Reduction Manager, 509.435.7058

Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 4:03 p.m.

In honor of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a small, physically distanced dedication ceremony was held at Spokane Fire Department Station 1 this morning.

US Army Veteran, Sgt Boone Cutler and Steve Danyluck, Independence Corps, spent the last few months working with Ben Hayhurst, Wreath and Rifle Forge, out of Elk, Washington to design and create a Firefighter Axe forged from materials from the fallen World Trade Center Towers in New York City.

During the dedication ceremony, Boone recounted his work with peer support suicide prevention efforts in the veteran community for the last 10 years, and the newly forged Firefighter Axe that was specifically designed for first responders.

Recent data from the National Fire Protection Association states firefighters are 2 times more likely to die from suicide than they are to die in the line-of-duty*.

Nationally, Peer Support Programs have proven to be an effective method for providing support for firefighters. Since the 1990's Spokane Fire Department has maintained a PEER Support Program with uniform members who are a phone call away after a tough call. The SFD PEER Support Team members are educated on critical behavioral health issues that impact the fire service, as well as receive enhanced training on active listening, assessment and crisis intervention skills. This program is overseen by the SFD department contracted Psychologist.

The dedication ceremony concluded with the awarding of a plaque to Spokane Fire Department containing steel recovered from the World Trade Center, and the department vision statement "The Spokane Fire Department's vision is to cultivate a culture and legacy of pride through teamwork, inclusion, respect, and professionalism, rooted in our community and service. Every member of our organization is bound together by our mission and a passionate commitment to saving lives."

The plaque will be proudly displayed at the Spokane Fire Department Training Campus as a reminder of the value of peer support in times of struggle.

As for the Spartan Axe, it leaves Spokane tomorrow morning and will start a journey across the country to New York City where it will be permanently displayed at the Fire Training Academy. The message of peer support will be shared during ceremonies across the country.