1st responders to Powell explosion struggling with grief, anger

1st responders to Powell explosion struggling with grief, anger
PUYALLUP, Wash. -- Hundreds of neighbors, first responders, and complete strangers turned out en masse to a Puyallup benefit Friday night, raising more than $15,000 for the grandparents of two boys killed by their father in a fire Sunday.

"I'm overwhelmed," said benefit organizer Sarah Slack. "There's really not any words. I didn't expect this."

Slack, founder of the TEARS Foundation for grieving parents, said her daughter was in the same 1st grade class as Charlie Powell, so she felt compelled to coordinate Friday's fundraiser.

Charlie Powell, 7, and his brother, 5-year-old Braden, died Sunday, after their father, Josh, set fire to their home near Graham. Prosecutors consider the gas-fueled explosion an admission that Josh killed his wife, Susan, who went missing in Utah in 2009.

Sunday's tragedy has especially impacted the first responders who were there, said Gary Franz, deputy chief of Graham Fire and Rescue.

"Our men and women are men and women," Franz said. "We don't have any super-human power against what everybody in this nation -- and particularly in this community -- are experiencing with our grief, with our anger, with our frustration."

Friday was the first day back on the job for the firefighters who responded to Sunday's blaze. The department held what's called a "critical incident stress debrief," Franz said, in which firefighters discussed the physical and emotional impact the incident had.

"Our job, one, is to be the people who get called when somebody else is having the worst day of their life," Franz said. "Obviously there's an amount of stress that just generates over time by virtue of being involved in that on a regular basis."

The stress of the event appears to have taken a toll on 911 dispatcher David Lovrak, who took the much-criticized 911 call from a social worker trying to alert authorities to danger at Josh Powell's house before it ignited.

In an interview with "Dateline," Lovrak -- who teaches classes in emergency services -- admits he faltered in his response.

"It's excruciating. It's painful to listen to," Lovrak said. "Hindsight is always 20/20 and certainly I, realizing what we all know now, I wish I had recognized the urgency of the situation."

"This has been a nightmare especially for somebody who has done this for as long as I have," he added.

Graham Fire & Rescue is holding a meeting Monday night to talk to residents about the incident and to discuss coping with the related stress. The meeting will be held at 10012 187th St. E in Graham at 6:30 pm.

"35 years (on the job) and it's different," added Franz. "Someone (was) intent on mayhem and murder. I'm coping like everybody else, and I believe I'm okay."