Shields Under Fire began in 2018 as a local support group which was initiated after a traumatic emergency call that involved the death of a 3-month-old infant. This event triggered a negative response in a local firefighter who had lost a stepson to cancer a few years prior. As a result of responding to the event, the firefighter had issues sleeping and eating and changes began in their behavior. Their spouse was concerned and contacted Chief Josh Watts who was then prompted to seek out assistance for the firefighter. With firefighter’s insurance not covering mental health services and the family having little income, Chief Watts contacted local churches for help. Five local churches answered the call for help and the individual was able to cover the expense of the services needed.
Shortly after this incident, it became obvious to Chief Watts that local volunteer firefighters were experiencing trauma like career departments, but they had no way to cope with the aftermath of the traumatic events. Chief Watts scheduled a meeting with a local Pastor to see if the local church had a Chaplain program to help the local firefighters. After a couple hours of discussion, the local church paid for Chief Watts to get trained as an Emergency Chaplain and Shields Under Fire was born.
In 2020, Chief Josh Watts and Chief Joshua Phillips decided to grow the support group and expand to other areas where volunteer first responders might not have the ability to provide mental health services after a traumatic event takes place involving their department or members. Shields Under Fire became Shields Under Fire, Incorporated operating as Shields Under Fire Emergency Services. Today, Shields is working with more than 5 local churches in the Northeast Indiana area and 4 counseling services to make sure that the men and women who answer the call for help, receive the help they need to make it to the next call.