JONESBORO — Mitch Ford volunteers his time as a chaplain with the Jonesboro Fire Department to help firefighters deal with stress.
Ford said stress can come with firefighting or just with having a family and working a very different schedule than other jobs.
Ford’s day job is as senior minister at Christian Valley Christian Church. There are two other chaplains, Ford said. Keith Baker is music minister at Walnut Street Baptist Church, and Randy Stimach, pastor of the Herman Baptist Church. Both Baker and Stimach are former Jonesboro firefighters. Ford was a member of a volunteer fire department in Poinsett County, he said.
Ford said a chaplain’s duty is twofold: First, make sure firefighters and their families are doing well; and second, helping those who responded to calls.
He said he spent time Monday and Tuesday debriefing those who responded Friday to the house fire on Huntington Avenue that claimed the lives of a 62-year-old woman and a 1-year-old girl.
One of those he spoke to had just graduated from the fire academy, and it was his first call.
“Monday was rough,” Ford said. “I talked with a firefighter who rode in the ambulance with one of the victims.”
He said firefighters can go for weeks occasionally without a major emergency and then an event such as the March 2020 tornado hits.
“There’s a lot of waiting and then get hit with a lot of adrenaline,” said Ford, who’s volunteered for three years now.
He said he sometimes gets a call from a boss who’s worried about a particular firefighter. Ford will then get in contact with that person to see what’s up.
“Firefighters act as if things don’t bother them, but it does.” he said.
He said he will drop in on a station house just to visit with firefighters to let them know he’s there if needed.
He said last year he was unable to do his drop-ins due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stations were closed to the public.
He said he believes the close camaraderie among firefighter helps them deal with the job.
“They have to get along with each other,” Ford said. “It helps take the edge off of it sometimes.”
He said it takes a special person to be a firefighter, both mentally and emotionally.
“Emotions are a good thing,” he said. “We don’t want them to get hardened where they don’t care.”
Ford said the improvements in technology have decreased the number of fires in general. He pointed to improvements in electrical wiring of homes and businesses.
But he said seeing a firefighter come out of a burning building on a hot summer day while wearing heavy equipment, shows one that it’s not an easy job.
“It’s a great service they do for the City of Jonesboro,” Ford said.