Organization that assists firefighters, police, now in need of help itself

Fire Scene Rehab operates on donations

SAN ANTONIO – When firefighters and police officers rush to an emergency, there is a chance their quick response could become a lengthy stay.

A situation such as a major fire or tense standoff could have them on scene for hours on end, causing them to put their own needs on the back burner while they attend to those of others.

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“They can’t leave the scene to go to the restroom, to go to the store,” Frank Castillo, a former police dispatcher said.

After witnessing those struggles among first responders, Castillo decided to become a volunteer with Fire Scene Rehab, an organization that works to bring a bit of comfort to the front lines.

“When we arrive at the scene, our priority is to take care of first responders, give them a place to take a break, get out of the elements,” he said.

The agency brings in a portable restroom, as well as an air conditioned bus where those crews can rest and get a cold drink or snack.

“Firefighters in their heavy gear, police officers in their vests,” said Fire Scene Rehab Director Robert “Bobby” Briggs, describing how first responders sometimes show up at his bus, exhausted.

Briggs, who once worked as an industrial firefighter himself, came up with this idea more than a decade ago, to serve those who serve everyone else.

The agency, he says, operates strictly off donations.

Lately though, Briggs says other people’s financial struggles have had an impact on the organization. Donations are down while the costs of doing business are up.

He said right now, they are operating on a month-to-month basis, never knowing if they will survive.

“One of our biggest hits was the fuel prices, you know? Gasoline prices go down. Diesel doesn’t,” he said.

Briggs said while he and his volunteers do most of their own maintenance work on their equipment, there are some jobs they can’t do and can’t afford to do now.

For example, he said, just keeping the 30-year-old air conditioning units on the bus running has been a challenge.

“We’ve had one go out. We still need to replace all three,” Briggs said.

One of his greatest fears, he said, is that he and his team won’t be able to keep doing what they do – helping those who help all of us.

To learn more about Fire Scene Rehab, click here.

About the Authors:

Katrina Webber joined KSAT 12 in December 2009. She reports for Good Morning San Antonio. Katrina was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas. It's not unusual to find her singing karaoke or leading a song with her church choir when she's not on-air.

Azian Bermea is a photojournalist at KSAT.