Portland, OR – The level of violence in Portland has surged to the point the city’s firefighters will soon begin wearing ballistic vests in addition to their other gear.
According to Portland Fire and Rescue (PFR) spokesperson Terry Foster, the decision to give firefighters access to bullet-resistant protective gear was made due to the “changing landscape” and an increase in instances where firefighters have had to deal with violent patients and bystanders, The Oregonian reported.
“First responders, as they go in, we can become targets,” Portland Fire Fighters’ Association (PFA) President Alan Ferschweiler told KGW. “Even if you look at the totality of the city, it’s definitely become a less safe place to work for their firefighters. There’s no way to mince any words.”
The union said PFR leaders agreed the vests should also be stab-resistant.
“We always will do anything and everything to keep firefighters safe because that’s what keeps people in Portland safe,” PFA Vice President Isaac McLennan told The Oregonian.
According to the PFR, the city plans to order 200 ballistic vests in the near future, KGW reported.
They will be red and will have the word “medic” emblazoned on them.
It is unclear when they will be available or in what situations they will be worn, The Oregonian reported.
McLennan said the push for ballistic vests has grown as Portland’s firefighters have seen more instances of people attacking or stabbing first responders both in Oregon and throughout the nation.
“This is just another tool…to keep firefighters safe,” the union vice president said.
Ferschweiler said he’s personally been assaulted twice while on duty, KGW reported.
“It’s just become more of a dangerous time for first responders throughout the country,” he said.
Violence in Portland has surged to record-breaking levels of the past year, with a total of 837 shootings so far through the month of August, McLennan told The Oregonian.
Shootings in the North Precinct are up more than 100% from the same period of time last year.