18 Calif. FFs, medics continue to recover after dance hall shooting
Monterey Park Fire Chief Matthew Hallock said grief counselors and peer support have helped along with the knowledge that lives were saved
By Georgia Valdes
Los Angeles Daily News
MONTEREY PARK, Calif. — Monterey Park’s Fire Department responders to January’s Star Ballroom Dance Studio shooting are on a positive path to recovery after the emotional jolt of tragedy, city officials said this week.
The Jan. 21 shooting that left 11 dead had a lasting emotional impact on the 18 fire department responders that day.
During a Jan. 31 announcement, Monterey Park city officials paid public tribute to the fire department’s response to the emergency.
But officials acknowledged the emotional toll remained heavy for those who were at the scene, with the department’s chief concerned about the “everlasting effects leading to an end of a career.”
That concern included an apology from city officials for not intervening sooner do deal with the trauma that responders were dealing with in the aftermath.
At that point, four members of the department were on indefinite medical leave after the shooting.
Two months later, only one responder continues to take the extra time needed to recoup following the incident, said Monterey Park Fire Chief Matthew Hallock.
He added that this was with the help of grief counselors and peer support.
“That’s what’s been so great — the support network in this area,” he said. “We brought in departments from around the area. They offered to run our calls for us while the whole entire shift went into this group counseling and then individual breakouts.”
Hallock said that there is no deadline for return to duty and the choice to continue to use mental health services and leave is voluntary. While the aftermath was rocky, Hallock added that the response from his team was “textbook.”
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"Our guys felt like they didn't exist," said Chief Matt Hallock. "I have several paramedics who aren't back to work, and I don't know if they will come back"
Hallock said after reviewing rescue footage, the responders’ ability to get surviving victims to the hospital at a fast clip was vital in saving lives.
“The silver lining of all this this tragedy is that lives were saved,” Hallock said. “I keep emphasizing that anytime we have a discussion on this is that, you know, lives were saved and differences were made in people’s lives because of what they did. If they can look back and reflect on anything positive out of this, it was that I think that’s helped quite a bit.”
Community healing continues, and the fire department itself is part of that healing. This Saturday the Fire Department Association will host a fundraiser BBQ to donate toward the Monterey Park Community Healing Fund.
The BBQ Fundraiser will be at Barnes Park’s service clubhouse patio, 350 S. McPherrin Ave., in Monterey Park. To learn more, text “ReliefBBQ” to 53-555 or visit @montereyparkfirefighters on Instagram.