Sandy Hook School/Town of Newtown mourning logo
William Halstead, fire chief of Sandy Hook (Conn.) Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company, is extremely grateful for the offers of support from across the nation in the aftermath of the devastating mass shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 children and and six adults.
"I want to say thank you to everybody who has offered to send firefighters and whatever else we need," Halstead said. "The local firefighters have been extremely helpful, and we have had many people in for mutual-aid so that we could have meetings with our own members."
Halstead was off work on Friday morning but at the fire station when they received a 911 call of a shooting incident at the elementary school. Immediately adjacent to the fire station property, Halstead and four firefighters — including his daughter, Karin Halstead, EMS captain — responded in the rescue unit.
With almost 48 years on the department, 34 as fire chief, Halstead never could have imagined the devastation in their small town of Newtown, he said. He had family inside the school; his former wife with the school nurse hid in a closet when the shooting started but survived.
Psychological support was made available for the members of the department immediately, Halstead said.
"We had a large group on Saturday around lunchtime, two groups, in fact," Halstead said. "We had a couple one-on-ones and tonight at 7 p.m. we plan to have another session for firefighters and members of the ladies auxiliary because they have been here constantly preparing food for us."
Halstead added that they have an effective mutual-aid program that worked well during and after the incident.
"Last night was the memorial, and we had to take care of the high school. So we had two neighboring companies in to cover the stations and help with traffic," Halstead said.
In addition, many fire-police have responded to help relieve crews from the long hours and cold weather while directing traffic, Halstead said.
Halstead said that of the five members on the initial rescue squad response, one firefighter had a child in the school. While setting up command, Halstead's daughter spotted the firefighter's son and reported he was all right. Another firefighter, responding on another vehicle, also had a child in the school who was safe. In addition, his wife had been visiting the school but was able to hide behind a dumpster during the shooting.
Aerial views of the scene on mainstream news coverage indicated triage areas had been set-up, but were empty. Halstead said they set up the triage area for seriously injured people, but there were no walking wounded. They did assist with two women, one with a gunshot in the hand and thigh and a second woman with gunshot wounds of the leg and foot.
"I can't express enough how grateful I am for all the support that has been offered," Halstead added.