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Violent attacks against Seattle firefighters on the rise, union says

A letter written by the Seattle Fire Fighters Union explained that firefighters are trained to put out fires, not protect themselves from violent attacks.

SEATTLE — The Seattle Firefighters Union wrote a letter to the City Council following about 40 alleged attacks in four months while they were on the job.

KING 5 News obtained the letter that was sent on July 26 of this year. The letter detailed two specific attacks and explained that firefighters are trained to put out fires, not protect themselves from violent attacks.

One firefighter was attacked while fighting a fire at an encampment at 10th Avenue South and South Dearborn Street. Someone threw a large rock at the firefighter while they were doing their job, according to the letter.

Another attack happened while firefighters were providing aid to someone and they pulled out a knife, began chasing the crew and threatened to kill them. When the firefighters retreated to their firetruck, the suspect climbed on top of the engine and was later detained.

In the letter, Seattle Fire Fighters Union President Kenny Stuart asked the council for changes in policies and actions to help mitigate the issue.

"We battle structure fires, vehicle fires, explosions, electrical hazards, chemical hazards, structural collapse, and infectious diseases, but we have been slow to recognize that intentional physical violence against firefighters is unacceptable. It is not the same as a burning building or a car wreck," Stuart wrote.

On Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell addressed their concerns.

"They are facing some very critical situations where their own safety is constantly put at risk," Harrell said. "We are also trying to figure out when someone is in a crisis, what kind of skill set should be in front of this person as well, so our budget will reflect this acknowledgment that many of our officers and our firefighters are putting themselves in harm's way."

In response to the letter, Councilmember Lisa Herbold said she asked the Seattle Fire Fighters Union for details of the incidents to get a fuller picture of the attacks.

"I unequivocally condemn acts of violence and I support the safety of all in public service, especially first responders who put themselves in harm’s way, both at SPD and SFD," Herbold wrote in her newsletter.

Stuart also wrote in the letter that he believed that the number of attacks could be higher because some of the attacks are not being reported.


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