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Yukon firefighters gather in Whitehorse to talk stress

The theme of the Association of Yukon Fire Chiefs annual meeting in Whitehorse is workplace injuries, but firefighters aren't talking about burns or smoke inhalation. They're talking about psychological stress.

Firefighters need support for PTSD cases, Dawson fire chief says

Dawson City Fire Chief Jim Regimbal says Yukon firefighters need more support when they're diagnosed with PTSD. (Submitted by Jim Regimbal )

The theme of the Association of Yukon Fire Chiefs annual meeting in Whitehorse is workplace injuries, but firefighters aren't talking about burns or smoke inhalation. They're talking about psychological stress.

About 20 chiefs are expected in Whitehorse this week. This year, there will be hands-on training as always but there's a new theme: post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jim Regimbal, Dawson City's fire chief, says it's important for firefighters, paramedics and other first responders to talk more openly about their mental health.

"People are understanding that you can come forward and discuss these issues, just like you can when you have a broken ankle, you can go in and get it checked," he said. 

"At least one member with the Dawson City fire department has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress injury, but that is something we can learn from."

The conference will include discussion of methods used to help fire-fighters deal with traumatic events. Regimbal wants Yukon to provide more support to first responders diagnosed with PTSD and to adopt a Manitoba law that presumes emergency responders diagnosed with PTSD got it on the job.

"The right thing to do is to have the mental health awareness and education and proper procedures put in place," Regimbal said.

"Some of the things [firefighters] see are not the nicest of things, so it's about time that we recognize it and move it forward."

The meeting starts Wednesday. It includes members of eight municipal fire departments and 16 volunteer departments from across Yukon. 

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