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Danger in firefighting highlighted by New York deaths

12:08 AM, Dec 28, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Two firefighters were shot and killed in Webster, New York, which is outside of Rochester, on Christmas Eve.  
Their viewing will be held tomorrow.

Investigators say an ex-convict lured them to his house in an apparent death trap.

Now, local firefighters say violence against them is not as uncommon as you might think.

"The moment you step out the door on a rescue, or truck, or ladder, you're in a dangerous situation," said Randy Wyse, President of the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters.

He understands the dangers that come with the job.

Often the first people on the scene of an emergency, Wyse said the men and women of the fire department have to be ready for anything.

"It could happen anywhere. So we always have to be mentally prepared to go in to those situations," said Wyse.

Firefighters are not allowed to carry weapons in the city, but Wyse said they're often threatened with them by people they're trying to help.

There's a long history of violence against firefighters in Jacksonville.

In 1934, a firefighter was shot and killed when he responded to a call.

And in the '70s, a firefighter was shot on Emerson Street on his last night on the job before retirement.

Last year, shots were fired at Station 18, and just last night, a drive-by shooting took place right outside that same station's door.

Firefighters are often called upon to diffuse a stressful situation when they get to the scene.

"One of our firefighters of the year, years ago, got firefighter of the year for disarming an armed man at a run," he said.

In 2008, some areas got so dangerous, the fire department had to use special precautions when they responded to calls.

Wyse said most firefighters have come face to face with weapons on the job.

"I'm standing there assisting a gentleman who had been shot, and I look to my left, and standing there three feet away, with a gun, is the guy that actually shot him," he said.

He said some departments mandate their firefighters wear bulletproof vests when they go out on calls, but Wyse said, for now, their department is just trying to use caution.

"We're putting ourselves really out there to help the citizens of Jacksonville, and a lot of times we're putting ourselves in a very dangerous situation," he said.

Wyse added that they have not changed any procedures in the wake of the NY shooting, but he is warning firefighters to continue using caution.

First Coast News

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