A veteran firefighter in Florida died by his own hand on Saturday, the same day he posted a Facebook status talking about firefighters and PTSD.
David Dangerfield died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a wooded area of Indian River County, where he had served as a firefighter for nearly three decades.
Dangerfield, a battalion chief with the Indian River County Fire Rescue, posted the ominous status on his Facebook page just after 8 p.m. Saturday. TCPalm.com reported that Indian County deputies responded about two and a half hours later to a 911 call from Dangerfield, in which he told dispatchers where emergency responders would be able to find his body.
“PTSD for firefighters is real,” Dangerfield wrote in the status. “If your love(d) one is experiencing signs get them help quickly. (Twenty-seven) years of deaths and babies dying in your hands is a memory that you will never get rid off (sic). It haunted me daily until now. My love to my crews. Be safe, take care. I love you all.”
PTSD for Firefighters is real. If your love one is experiencing signs get them help quickly. 27 years of deaths and...Posted by David Dangerfield on Saturday, October 15, 2016
The initial reaction to his post was one of concern from friends.
“Dave, please don’t do anything crazy, call and talk to someone,” one woman wrote. “Call me if you want. Please.”
Another wrote, “We have a great family of support; reach out and someone will always be there to catch you,” followed by a heart emoji.
The comments continued for hours as friends talked back and forth, asking if anyone had been able to reach Dangerfield. One man said that Dangerfield’s voicemail had filled up and he was not responding to texts.
After people started becoming aware that he had been found dead, the messages of concern turned to grief-stricken thoughts on a long career helping people.
“I am so heartbroken,” one woman wrote. “Dave you were a wonderful guy who taught so many how to be the best fireman they could be, including my dad and my husband. Thank you for your service and now praying that you have found peace. I pray (for) peace for your family in the days and months to come.”
To all of our brothers within Indian River and the Treasure Coast our thoughts are with you as well as Chief Dangerfield...Posted by Osceola FD Benevolent on Monday, October 17, 2016
Dangerfield’s father told WPTV in West Palm Beach that his son had been diagnosed with PTSD.
“He was seeing a doctor, for a year and a half, about three days a week,” Bruce Dangerfield said. “Nobody knew how bad he was suffering.”
The International Association of Firefighters reported in August that about 20 percent of firefighters and paramedics suffer from PTSD. The rate is similar to that found in those who have faced combat situations.
The IAFF report goes further to state that a 2015 study by Florida State University found that nearly half of those firefighters surveyed admitted to thinking about suicide. About 19 percent said they made plans to kill themselves, and almost 16 percent said they had attempted suicide in the past.
Those with PTSD are six times more likely to attempt suicide, the study found.
Dangerfield was named the Treasure Coast Fire Chiefs’ Association’s Emergency Service Provider of the Year in 2013, TCPalm.com reported. He served as a field training officer for his department’s dive rescue team, as well as a fire instructor at Indian River State College’s Fire Academy.
He was also active in charitable work, including providing Thanksgiving meals to the needy through the Big Heart Brigade. Dangerfield was also founder of an annual charity firefighters’ chili and salsa cookoff in his community.