Battling wildfires is dangerous and exhausting work. But some firefighters are getting support from a team of four-legged friends.
Heidi Carman is founder of First Responder Therapy Dogs, which is based in California.
Her group brings certified crisis response therapy dogs to wildfire base camps and fire stations so firefighters can spend time with the dogs.
“They don’t even have to say any words,” Carman says. But there’s just this magic that happens between a firefighter and the therapy dog.”
Firefighters often see homes go up in smoke. They may see their colleagues injured or even killed. They work grueling hours and can be away from home for months. So they face high rates of anxiety, PTSD, depression, and even suicide.
And the risks are increasing as climate change causes more extreme fires.
“I am definitely seeing the stress on the firefighters, especially the last couple of years,” Carman says. “They’re overworked, exhausted.”
Carman hopes spending time with a therapy dog helps relieve their stress and reduces the stigma around mental health.
“My goal is to just help them feel better and maybe even help them feel okay to ask for help if they need it,” she says.
Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media