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SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- The first firefighters to arrive on scene of a house fire in Springfield where they were ambushed by a gunman are on leave while a Peer Support Team helps them and the department heal from the trauma.
Battalion Chief Mike Caven with the Eugene Springfield Fire Department is praising those five firefighters for their efforts, calling them heroes.
"These guys did it right," Caven said. "The captain provided an excellent description of the shooter and his location while under fire -- while trying to account for his crews. It was spot on."
Caven said all five of those firefighters were hit by the gunman, but thanks to their protective gear, they only received bruises.
Caven, who is also the local president of the International Firefighters Association, said the Eugene Springfield Fire Department and the cities have stepped up to take care of their employees' mental health and are allowing those firefighters take a leave.
"There is no pressure on them to put them back in a position that they are not ready for, and so they are being allowed to decompress and be with their families and process on how to get back and not think about what happened,Caven said.
The day of the shooting, a Peer Support Team with the International Association of Firefighters was called up. Captain Scott Ross, the team's lead and firefighter with Los Angeles County, said they're here to help the firefighters heal not just physically, but mentally. The team has helped firefighters process what happened after situations such as the deadly Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival shooting in Las Vegas.
Ross said the five firefighters who first arrived on scene in Springfield have received a lot of support.
"They're doing OK," Ross said. "They have a strong family around them, not only their own internal support, but they also have the fire family that is going to rally around them, and I hope that as things move forward, they continue to be supported as I know that they will."
Ross said the Peer Support Team is not just focusing on the firefighters who were on the scene, but also on the whole department and their loved ones.
Caven said the firefighters on leave can take as much time as they need to heal.
"They were the first ones going back to the scene, picking up their hoses and putting out that fire," Caven said. "I think that was an important first step to their healing.
While officials believe the fire was arson, they are still investigating to find out what sparked the blaze in the first place.
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