The fire union official called the act “about as cowardly as it gets.”
Speaking to media outlets Monday, July 18, Cincinnati Fire Union President Matt Alter was referring to a firefighter who was hit by a bullet in the helmet while responding to a fire in Avondale early Sunday, July 17.
Although the shooting remains under investigation — authorities have yet to determine whether the firefighter was targeted, or the victim of a random shooting — Alter said attacks on public safety officials are the new reality, and that deliberately shooting a firefighter represents a threat to everyone’s safety.
Alter’s remarks echo a reality in Orange County and throughout the nation following the recent assassinations of eight police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge: Along with their brethren in law enforcement, fire department personnel, too, are in a heightened state of alert.
Such hate, thankfully, has yet to result in a firefighter in O.C. being attacked simply for doing his or her job.
In the Cincinnati incident July 17, firefighters on the scene of a blaze in a vacant home in Avondale reported hearing four to six shots. One of them was struck by a bullet just above the brim of his helmet. The bullet did not penetrate it.
That incident was one of two scares over the weekend of July 16-17 in Cincinnati, according to media reports. Alter said a threatening gesture made to firefighters during a separate incident in Avondale remains under investigation.
A few weeks ago, a bullet grazed a firefighter who was treating a patient in an ambulance in Milwaukee.
Closer to home, two firefighters in San Diego were stabbed last year by an irate man who had been called to a trolley station to deal with an intoxicated man.
Ryan Allen Jones was sentenced in March 2016 to more than 23 years in prison (he was a third-striker) for seriously wounding the firefighters in the incident on June 24, 2015.
On Monday, July 18, a letter written by Garden Grove Fire Chief Tom Schultz to his department’s 92 firefighters and other employees that referenced the shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge was posted on the GGFD’s Facebook page.
“We continue to stand by our brothers (and sisters) at the GGPD during these challenging times,” the letter read, in part. “To all members of the GGFD, continue to have a high level of situational awareness and stay safe. Continue to serve the community, but also make sure you take care of each other.”
In an interview, Schultz said he wanted to encourage his firefighters to be at the “highest level” of awareness.
“I have a hard time getting my head around why this (violence against first responders) is happening,” Schultz said. “Our guys (police and fire) are out there every day trying to make a difference and help the community.”
Schultz said firefighters and police officers are part of one big family.
“My mindset is this,” Schultz said. “The fire department and police department are tied together by a bond to commit to serving the public. I want my firefighters to understand that in executing their oath to protect this city…that they utilize all their training to keep themselves safe.
“So many times, calls end up as ‘routine,’” Schultz continued. “Especially in these times, I don’t want complacency to become the norm.”