Phoenix Fire fights PTSD, helps struggling vets

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PHOENIX -- Thousands of veterans are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and more and more are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. As they're reintroduced into society, a stressful situation could ignite flashbacks, and that's why one local fire agency decided to help.

The Phoenix Fire Department, the Arizona National Guard and the Arizona Coalition for Military Families got together to launch a unique program that is designed to identify and calm a potentially explosive situation in which a veteran is suffering from PTSD. 

The first-of-its-kind program was found to be very necessary after learning nine out of 10 war veterans were returning after witnessing someone seriously injured or killed. That resonated with a Phoenix Fire captain who knew a vet who committed suicide. That incident raised a red flag that first responders needed to be aware of the growing problem.

"It was very evident we needed to train our firefighters on this subject so we could deliver better service when a veteran is in crisis" Capt. Dean Pedrotti said.

So far more than 1,000 paramedics have been trained to identify PTSD, which first involves identifying a veteran, addressing them properly, approaching the scene differently, calming the situation and then providing information to get them help.

It's training combat war veteran Patrick Ziegert believes will help immensely.

"Just awareness of the kinds of situations we've seen, some de-escalation techniques they're teaching and just having an appreciation for some of the things we've gone through most importantly," he said.

The entire Phoenix Fire Department will be trained within the next year.