Firefighters in Bay of Exploits are grieving the loss of one of their colleagues after responding to a fatal highway crash near Botwood, in central Newfoundland, Saturday.

'You really don't know what you're going to face when you get there.' - Robert Fisher

Northern Arm Fire Chief Rob Fisher said the deceased was a volunteer fire fighter at the nearby Philips Head fire department — a man that his fire brigade trained with.

Fisher said it was one of the toughest calls they've had to deal with, and the next few weeks could be more difficult for the brigade.

"You really don't know what you're going to face when you get there. It could be innocent … or it could be the exact opposite, which unfortunately in this case it was," Fisher told CBC News.

"It could happen anytime and it could be somebody close … regardless, when you arrive at the scene you simply have to look quickly and say 'What has happened, what can we do?'"

Fisher said the man was ejected from his vehicle when it struck a utility pole.

He was alone in the vehicle and just minutes away from his home in Philips Head. 

Northern Arm volunteer fire department sign

Northern Arm's volunteer fire department is one fire station in the Bay of Exploits area of central Newfoundland. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Dealing with tragedy

Volunteering as a firefighter in rural Newfoundland, Fisher said there may not be a lot of calls but there's a greater chance they could involve family, friends or neighbours.

'You still don't really expect a bad scene until it really does happen.' - Robert Fisher

"The hardest part I find, is having people mentally ready because it's the same as anything, if you never have an emergency, you tend to think you never will," said Fisher. 

"I don't think people sign up thinking themselves as brave or anything, they basically signed up to fight fires and now they're realizing there's a whole lot more to it but even so you still don't really expect a bad scene until it really does happen."

Last fall the province announced $25,000 dollars to train community members in four regions to help first responders deal with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from tragic events like this.

Fisher said, while his department trains every week to keep on top of the essential skills needed to perform the job, it's still too early in the program to help firefighters cope with this tragedy — and his department tends to look after one another.

"We talk to each other ... because [PTSD] doesn't necessarily show itself today or tomorrow, it may be down the line," said Fisher.

"Really, if it does come up you've got to try to find some help somewhere ... we have to be aware of ourselves."

Accident scene, near Botwood

The vehicle went off the road near Botwood and struck a utility pole. (Chris Ensing/CBC)