Supporting our firefighters

Years before I ran for public office, I began serving as a Critical Response Chaplain for the Concord Police Department, working directly with first responders, victims, and their families to help support them through difficult and traumatic situations. Serving my community in this role has been such an honor that I knew I wanted to continue to do so even after my election to the Assembly in 2016.

For over a decade now, I’ve been able to witness firsthand the intense physical and mental pressure that first responders endure, and now that my son has begun a career in firefighting, I understand the impact on families even more intimately.

This year, California again faced a devastating and record-breaking wildfire season with over 4 million acres burned, nearly 10,500 structures damaged or destroyed, and over 30 lives tragically lost. During wildfire season, many of us rightfully worry about the danger firefighters experience on the frontlines, but I’m afraid we too often forget the trauma they can carry with them even after fires are extinguished.

Through the course of their careers, these brave women and men witness firsthand lives and homes lost and destroyed by flames, and the impact this has on firefighters is clear. In 2017, one of California’s most dangerous years of wildfires, more firefighters died by suicide than on duty. When untreated, the psychological and emotional stress first responders endure can manifest in post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, heart disease, and depression.

Mental Health Bill

Last year I was proud to have had Governor Newsom sign into law AB 1116, my bill to provide effective, and accessible mental health services for firefighters through a Peer Support and Crisis Referral Services Pilot Programs. These programs build off the informal social support that many first responders are receiving from each other, providing them with training and requiring oversight by a licensed clinical professional to guarantee a high standard of care.

It took a three year effort to have AB 1116 signed into law, and I’m already looking forward to returning to Sacramento in January so I can continue my work supporting our first responders, however in the meantime, each of us can make a difference for the firefighters in our own communities.

One of the biggest ways that we can help firefighters is by making a preparedness plan and evacuating when orders are given. Too often firefighters are put into high-risk situations because they are called in to assist residents who did not respond to local orders to evacuate. Last month I hosted a virtual town hall on emergency preparedness where incredible resources were shared on how you can prepare your family for any emergency, where you can sign up for emergency notifications, and how you can make your homes fire safe. Please contact my Concord District at (925) 521-1511 and we’d be happy to share these resources with you.

You can also make a difference by simply checking in on your friends and neighbors who are members of the firefighter family. Hard times can extend far beyond fire season, and I know from experience that words of support and gratitude can go a long way. To everyone who has been on the frontlines fighting California’s wildfires, and to all of their loved ones who support them, thank you.

Reach Assemblyman Tim Grayson at (925) 521-1511. Visit or write the district office 2151 Salvio Street, Suite P, Concord, CA 94520.