Angelina fire chiefs concerned over possibility of first respond - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Angelina fire chiefs concerned over possibility of first responders carrying firearms

Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff Source: KTRE Staff

The idea of first responders carrying firearms is gaining traction in the aftermath of a Dallas paramedic being shot Monday while responding to a call.

A bill was passed in the Texas Senate in April that would allow for this to happen. Several versions of the bill are in the House of Representatives waiting to be passed.

The senate bill was presented by Sen. Don Huffines who stated in the bill that:

The risk of assault for EMS workers is roughly 30 times higher when compared to the average occupational risks in the United States. Most recently, paramedics and firefighters placed themselves in harm's way when they assisted police officers in retrieving downed officers during the July 7, 2016, ambush of Dallas police officers. Similar incidents are reported with regularity, nonetheless these brave men and women are deprived of the liberty to defend themselves.

Lufkin Fire Chief Ted Lovett said despite those numbers, the room for error is small for first responders when it comes to this possible law change.

"It would take just one incident where we would be viewed as adversarial, and that is not what we want to see happen," Lovett said.

Lovett is joined in his opposition by fire chiefs around the state. One of those is just 10 miles south in Huntington.

"As the police chief in Huntington and the acting fire chief, I do see it from both sides," said Huntington Fire Chief Bobby Epperly. "I don't think an occasional incident like that is going to justify first responders to carry openly. As a person, if I am at home, I don't want to see a firefighter coming to the house with a gun. I want to see them with a hose. If it is a paramedic, I want to see them with a med kit."

One of the main concerns is that the firearm is another piece of equipment that crews would be adding to their responsibility.

"Where are you going to place it on an apparatus?" Lovett said. "It would have to be locked up at a fire call. You know you can't have it on your person. There is a lot more to this bill than what meets the eye."

Lovett said for his department, the only employees that carry are in the fire marshal's office. Those two employees are certified peace officers and scenes they conduct investigations on are considered crime scenes.

Epperly stated while many may consider police, firefighters, and paramedics to be "first responders," he believes that there should be a separation when it comes to duties.

"They work better together when they have their separate job functions they need to do, and they need to do those and not worry about what the others are doing," Epperly said.

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