Seattle’s firefighters want the city to take action to curb the violence against them, which they said only seems to be worsening. The concern is that firefighters will race out to provide medical care or knock down flames but too often they will become targets of the very people they are trying to help.
This reality is amid rising numbers of attacks on Seattle firefighters. The union is seeking better protections. On July 18, a firefighter was hit by a large rock while working to extinguish an encampment fire at 10th Avenue S. and Dearborn Street. On June 3, firefighters on a medical call were chased around their rig when the patient tried to stab them.
Crews from the Seattle Fire Department are facing new dangers in recent months with many firefighters reporting being attacked while out responding to calls for help, according to letters recently submitted to the Seattle City Council.
Many of the cases he referenced for city leaders involved responding to scenes at homeless camps. In one instance, crews showed up to douse the flames at an encampment but instead were threatened by people wielding weapons, including a steel rebar club. One woman firefighter was reportedly kicked in her genitalia and slapped in separate attacks by homeless people.
Kenny Stuart, president of Seattle Fire Fighters Union IAFF Local 27, has documented at least 40 assaults in just over four months. He is calling on city leaders to address this disturbing trend “before there is a tragedy.” Since the uptick in assaults, the Seattle Fire Department has changed the way these reports are tracked, by launching a new form in April.
Firefighters are being encouraged to report any threatening incidents, even ones that don’t involve physical contact. The most recent report was filed Aug. 18 involving a patient in a medical call. The homeless crisis has plagued Seattle for some time, but has worsened significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
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