MOBILE COUNTY, Ala. (WPMI) — NBC 15 is spotlighting the services provided by Veterans Recovery Resources in Mobile not only addressing the mental, emotional and spiritual issues of our veterans but also first responders and their families.

A fire 11 years ago on Dauphin Island nearly proved fatal. Gale force winds created a monster that consumed veteran firefighter Brad Cox.

“After being in there 2 or 3 minutes. The windows broke and I basically had a humongous flashover,” said veteran firefighter Brad Cox.

“I was initially burned some, but the biggest problems we had, the wind and the pressure slammed the door on top of the hose, so I couldn’t get the front door open,” said Cox.

He was out of oxygen and quickly unconscious inside this inferno.

“They got me out of the house, and some of them family members, kept me going until the ambulance got there. The helicopter got there,” said Cox.

After weeks in the burn unit, and on a vent– endless hours of hospitals and rehab… A little more than a year later, most of the physical damage had healed. Brad returned to firefighting. But the mental anguish was still very real.

“I was embarrassed to say I had PTSD because I wasn’t a soldier in combat,” said Brad Cox.

Night terrors.. triggers that bring him right back to inside that fire. Psychologists helped. And so did time with Veterans Recovery Resources. Not only helping Brad heal but teaching him to heal others.

“We’ve been trained in how to bring out things see if there are things going on. A lot of time it’s just talking to the person.. and then catching up with them talking again,” said Cox.

Brad is one of about 30 in the peer support program who play a vital role in the overall health of Mobile Fire and Rescue.

“Folks in the fire department need someone to talk to, after running on calls that involve children,” said Cox,

“We are just hoping more and more people do reach out when they do need help. It’s scary to ask for help, whether it was back when I got burned.. or I’m overwhelmed because of career choices at the fire department,” said Cox.

Brad Cox has been with Mobile Fire-Rescue for nearly 3 decades.

He’s also volunteered on the Dauphin Island Department for even longer than that , the last 19 years as Chief. Brad will be stepping down as Chief in a couple of weeks.

But says he’ll keep making runs and teaching, and helping his fellow first responders– until they take his keys away.

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