Missouri Firefighter's Death Prompts Safety Concerns

KANSAS CITY, Mo. --

The death of a St. Louis firefighter who was ambushed during a fire call on Monday has local firefighters talking about how to defend themselves.

KMBC's Jim Flink reported that Kevlar vests are not likely to be added to the fire uniform in Kansas City. At Local 42, which represents firefighters and Metropolitan Ambulance Services Trust workers citywide, officials said they have both practical and philosophical issues with having first responders wear bulletproof vests.

In most emergency calls, there is protocol about how EMS and firefighters respond when danger is present.

"Fire or EMS standby, usually a half a block or a block away," said Louie Wright of Local 42.

Crews stage until police say the scene is clear. But in St. Louis, there was no indication of danger until the first shots rang out, killing rookie firefighter Ryan Hummert, 22.

Flink reported that the situation was similar to one in the metro four years ago. Emergency responders are now training, embedding themselves in tactical units.

"It is a reality already in many places, and some of our members of MAST are training in that direction right now," Wright said.

It is a fine line to walk. Paramedics and firefighters are, at times, welcome where police are not. But the need for immediate medical help cannot always wait.

"(A) situation like Columbine for instance, where if you wait to secure the scene, there may be victims or patients inside, where the critical time frame isn't extended and they may lose their life," Wright said.

Wright told Flink that there is no timetable on the deployment of paramedics with tactical officers. But he believes that could happen within the next year. Until that time, current protocol of waiting for police to secure the scene remains in place.

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