Polk County fire department now equipped with bulletproof vests

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – They fight fires to keep people safe, but now their own safety is coming into question.

“Firefighters are being shot at. They are responding to more and more violent acts. When we show up to these calls and you look around, the fire departments and EMTs are the only ones who aren’t wearing anything,” Dundee Fire Chief Joseph Carbone told News Channel 8.

That is why Chief Carbone, along with city officials, purchased bullet proof vests for the entire department. Dundee is now the first fire department to do so.

Firefighters will wear them during any potentially dangerous calls.

“If we’re dispatched to an assault, shooting, stabbing, something in progress, they will put them on [before they] leave the station,” Chief Carbone said.

“A lot of times we’re there first on the scene before law enforcement,” Dundee Fire Department Assistance Chief Joe Garrison said. “Normally firefighters, EMTs and paramedics are the angels. We don’t discriminate. We help all citizens, regardless of what they believe. But, at the end of the day, I think the vest is good, because every call I go on, I think about my kids. I want to come home to them.”

Chief Carbone says the idea came after an incident two years ago when a man had a gun in Polk County.

“One paramedic was shot in the incident. We were called in to put out a fire that started within the fire fight. It was undetermined at that time whether the gunman was still alive or dead,” Chief Carbone described.

Sadly, it’s becoming all too common, with the recent shootings in Orlando and Las Vegas reinforcing their decision.

“It’s not a matter of if it can happen here, because it does happen here. It doesn’t require a mass shooter to kill a firefighter. It requires one bullet and one gun,” Chief Carbone said.

News Channel 8 has learned that other other local departments are looking at buying similar vests in the near future.

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