Sharing Strength after Surviving a Tragedy: Danielle’s Story

Danielle Altschuh Johnston is a firefighter – plain and simple. Joining the New York City Fire Department at the age of 21, she was driven by a desire to be part of something bigger than herself. She is one of the roughly 3.8% of women who make up the population of career firefighters in the United States. 

On the day she officially became a member of Eng. 271, she received severe burns to her leg while battling a large fire in an apartment complex.

During her recovery, mentorship from a fellow female firefighter who had also previously been burned provided comfort and strength. Upon returning to work, however, she experienced anxiety that she was unprepared for.   

Danielle believes that ongoing peer support would have made her experience returning to her job as a firefighter easier. Because of her tough transition back to work, she has been pursuing training as a Phoenix SOAR peer supporter in order to help other firefighters who have been in similar situations. “You can relate on certain things that are universal in the firefighting world and help guide each other through the process,” she explains.  

The generous FEMA grant received by the Phoenix Society has helped firefighters, such as Danielle, spread the word that peer support through Phoenix SOAR (Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery) and numerous other resources are available for those in the fire service who have been affected by a burn injury, as well as their family members.  

Watch Danielle tell her story in her own words in this short video:  


Funding provided through DHS/FEMA’s Grant Program Directorate for Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program - Fire Prevention and Safety Grants

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