Firefighters & Civil Unrest: 'Firefighters fight fires, not people'

How firefighters are being impacted by the protests and riots following the death of George Floyd

FireRescue1 has been reporting on the civil unrest occurring around the country. Following are highlights of some of our coverage efforts and the impact of the civil unrest on the fire service. 

At the epicenter: Minneapolis

Minneapolis firefighters were the first to face the civil unrest, responding to a spike in fire incidents on the first day of significant protests and riots.

Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel explains the department’s cautious approach to fire operations during the riots as well as how police officers are escorting firefighters to help them gain access to fire scenes.

The chief discusses the department’s task force approach and shares a message with the community as well.

From this article, FireRescue1 also shared supportive comments from fire service leaders and members of the FireRescue1 community, who applaud the chief’s safety focus.

IAFC President Gary Ludwig notes that it may go against firefighters’ DNA to watch a fire burn and not do anything about it, but he sees departments using the proper strategies to wait and not rush in in order to protect their members.

Firefighters targeted

Unfortunately, firefighters have found themselves the target of attacks.

The article “Firefighter attacked, apparatus damaged during civil unrest” captures many unfortunate examples, including smashed apparatus windows, objects thrown at crews, and even a defaced memorial.

Fire Chief Marc Bashoor also writes about two alarming incidents – one in Richmond, Virginia, where protesters tried to block an apparatus from getting to a structure fire where a child was trapped and the other, an incident in Charlotte, North Carolina, where crews dodged projectiles while trying to rescue a protester who had fallen into a street grate.

Related to this Charlotte incident, Chief Bashoor interviews Division Chief Kent Davis, who details the incident and explains how the department’s Police Assist Companies work, similar to a Rescue Task Force model. You can listen to that Side Alpha Podcast on SoundCloud, iTunes and several other podcast platforms.

Social media

As social unrest grew in the initial days, many fire departments quickly turned to social media.

We’ve compiled a look at how fire departments around the county are connecting with their communities, some seeking to assure citizens of their continued presence, others reinforcing curfews or sharing safety measures, and even some pleading with protesters to remain peaceful and allow firefighters to do their jobs.

There’s another side of social media to talk about, though – a potentially dangerous one. FireRescue1 has been covering the news related to fire service personnel who are facing career consequences after posting comments about the protests or protesters on social media.

We’ve compiled several examples of such posts that are landing members in hot water.

As Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder reminds us: At end of the day, you can post whatever you want, but then understand that you own the consequences too.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of our coverage efforts, so I encourage you to visit FireRescue1.com for additional reporting and analysis.

Additional Resources

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