The Freeman School District recently presented Spokane County Fire District 8 with a special award in recognition of the fire district’s support since a school shooting at Freeman High School in September.
The award of “Outstanding Contributions and Support” during the 2017-18 school year was presented at a recent school board meeting. The traditional certificate was accompanied by a metal piece of art in the shape of a fire hydrant.
District 8 Fire Chief Tony Nielsen currently has the metal hydrant in his office. “We haven’t decided where we want to put it,” he said. “It’s really substantial.”
The metal fire hydrant was made by Shadle High School students and given to Freeman High School to pass on.
District 8 crews were among the first on the scene of the shooting last fall, giving first aid to the three students who were wounded. One student, Sam Strahan, died in the attack.
Since then the firefighters have been a visible presence at games and other events, said Freeman Superintendent Randy Russell. They also helped lay sod when the high school’s baseball field was redone.
“They were there from the first minutes that it happened and all the way through,” Russell said. “They’ve just been amazing.”
Firefighters still wear District 8 T-shirts with the message “Freeman Strong” and have decals with the same phrase on their fire engines.
“It’s heartwarming just to know there’s ongoing support,” Russell said. “It’s just a good reminder how good of a place it is in this region.”
Giving the fire district an award just made sense, Russell said.
“They’ve been a great partner for 20 years, and it was the least we could do,” he said.
Firefighters have done other things to help the school and students move on after the shooting, including giving gift cards to the three victims so they could replace the clothes that were cut off their bodies after they were wounded, Nielsen said.
“The gals and guys have done things with the young ladies who were shot,” Nielsen said.
While the fire district has always had a relationship with the school district, including teaching CPR courses every year, the relationship is deeper now, Nielsen said.
“It’s definitely strengthened the bond between firefighters and the Freeman community,” he said. “It’s a special community, very tight knit.”
Nielsen said Russell has always been good to work with. “He’s a great partner for us to have as well,” he said. “Just last week we used the high school as a fire camp for the Belmont Fire.”
As the one-year anniversary of the shooting approaches, Nielsen said the district is continuing to support its firefighters as they deal with the aftermath.
“They seem to be doing well,” he said. “It’s not easy for some of the people.”
It’s not unusual for firefighters to deal with fatalities in car crashes or fires, but this was the first school shooting they have responded to, he said.
“It’s one of those things I’ve always worried about but hoped and prayed would never happen,” Nielsen said.
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