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Hemet firefighters start wearing body armor

May 9, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Of the 12,000 calls a year the Hemet Fire Department responds to, from wild fires to structure fires, they depend on their gear to keep them safe. Now that includes gunfire.

Hemet Fire Department purchased 18 bullet-resistant vests 10 months ago for all four of its fire stations. The vests are always kept on the trucks.

"A lot of times fires is not a concern, it's more of the assault calls and the gang-related issues and domestic violence," Hemet firefighter Andrew Hamilton said. "We're targeted as a person on the scene."

Last year, two men allegedly launched several attacks against the Hemet Police Department by using booby traps. Hemet firefighters were often at the scene of those incidents.

"This is just another layer of precaution," said Hemet Interim Fire Chief Bill Whealan. "If we're outside waiting for the police department to clear an area and the call spills out further away from where the call was generated, we have another layer of protection to keep our men and women safe in Hemet."

Each call will determine if and when firefighters will have to pull on their protective vest.

"We would usually wait for police to go in depending on the type of call to clear the scene, that way we're not going into a scene we're not equipped for," said Patrick Brown of the Hemet Fire Department. "We don't have guns or the training that police officers have."

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