SPOKANE, Wash. -- Spokane Fire Department said they are seeing an increase of violent calls that have jeopardized the safety of first responders.
The Spokane Fire Department responded to a house fire earlier this week.
The homeowner became violent. He struck a firefighter in the face while being rescued. He became violent again, striking another first responder. Both firefighters were sent to the hospital due to injuries from this man. The patient was charged with assault but the cause of the violent behavior is still unknown.
“We have had responders that have been shot, responders that have been stabbed and hurt like ours were,” said Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer.
These days, flames and smoke are not the biggest threat to our first responders. Many times it is the people they are tasked with saving.
“The numbers are really staggering of mental health incidents, narcotics and illicit drugs. It all has an impact on the people that ride on the red fire trucks,” Schaeffer shared.
Big changes are coming to the way fire crews will respond to incidents.
“It may be adding protective gear to those responders entering that situation or it may be accompanying them with police officers more often,” said Schaeffer.
From 2014 to 2016 the number of behavioral-related responses have jumped 22 percent in Spokane. Firefighters respond to an average of 10 mental health related calls in a single day. According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire crews only respond to 1.3 million fire related calls compared to the 21.5 million medical calls each year.
The increase in violent incidents has forced the Fire Chief to change the way he deploys his resources, trains his people, and interrogates callers. Mental health and drug abuse has no boundaries.
“We have been in million dollar homes were somebody has overdosed or is suffering from bipolar or schizophrenia. Those are true, real problems that we face on a daily basis here in the city of Spokane,” Schaeffer said.