Orlando District Chief on Pulse attack: We'll reel from this for years

By Bailey Myers and John W. Davis, Team Coverage
Last Updated: Friday, June 17, 2016, 9:56 PM EDT

In those minutes following the Pulse nightclub attack, it was first responders on the ground who had to act fast.

  • Orlando firefighters were among 1st on the scene
  • They had to decide whether someone was taken to hospital
  • Counseling being made available to Orlando firefighters

“It was a very stressful situation,” Orlando Fire District Chief Bryan Davis said.

While club goers and Orlando police officers grabbed the wounded inside, fire crews helped all of those bleeding, crying and suffering outside — sometimes being the first ones to realize someone might not make it.

“Watching a fireman have to make a determination whether or not this individual gets transported to the hospital or not, it’s definitely something he is going to reel from for years, knowing that’s what he had to do,” Davis said.

Away from the scene, the Orlando fire chief and fellow first responders faced an entirely different dilemma, as he attempted to comfort the parents who just learned of their loss.

“Being there and telling those loved ones that their loved ones were lost was gut-wrenching. Hearing those cries and those screams — it pulled at your heartstrings,” Fire Chief Roderick Williams said.

Now all around, those first responders are suffering as they try to understand why and how it all happened.

“We are trying to learn from this. What can we do differently, where can we improve, so we can pay it forward to the next agency to see if they are faced with this or the same situation, they can react to it,” Davis said.

Therapists and counseling are being made available to firefighters and first responders.

Additional situational training on the way?

At a news conference Friday, Williams also added that he would be looking at adding training for the EMS system.

"We have active shooter training with law enforcement. Any terrorists, domestic violence, domestic disturbances training with them. In addition, we do training by ourselves as well. We're constantly working with law enforcement agencies," Chief Williams added.

Chief Williams said the department is reviewing everything, from the first calls for help to their response treating and transporting the wounded on Orange Avenue.

Williams said they will combine what they learned from that gut-wrenching experience with best practices from other agencies that have experienced similar mass shooting scenarios.

"I will tell you right now, just talking to the officers, [Orlando Police] Chief Mina, now we will look at more training opportunities for fire and police. That's what we should be doing," Chief Williams explained.