Assaults on firefighters under-reported, new study coming

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – As Youngstown firefighters begin their day Wednesday following a shooting Monday night that left a firefighter with a gunshot wound to the leg, many are wary and contemplative as they execute their duties.

Captain Chris Weaver said the Youngstown Police Department is doing a good job keeping tabs on firefighters following the shooting, but the unsettling feeling is still there.

“It’s like they could be out trying to snipe us. It really makes you think twice and beware of your surroundings,” Weaver said.

The tensions pour over from Monday’s shooting that happened as a crew was leaving the scene of a vacant house fire on the north side. Someone fired shots at the fire truck, hitting Lieutenant Paul Lutton in the leg as he sat in the driver’s seat and narrowly missing another firefighter.

Weaver said the entire department has rallied around Engine #7 and it’s crew who was targeted in the line of duty.

While extensive research and statistics are kept for firefighters who are injured on the job, there isn’t much information about firefighters who are assaulted in the line of the duty. According to the National Fire Protection Association, this could be because many incidents go unreported or they are listed as “other” when statics are compiled for firefighter injury. Fatal assaults are calculated, but non-fatal injuries resulting from an assault are not clearly represented.

A 2011 U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics report lists violence and other injuries by persons or animals to firefighters at less than 5 percent.

The results of a study that was conducted in conjunction with the U.S. Fire Administration and Drexel University will be released some time in 2017. The research is looking at best practices for preventing and mitigating violence against firefighters and other first responders. The study is also looking at the circumstances surrounding violence aimed at first responders and their effects on personnel.

While suiting up for work at the Youngstown Fire Department is different now that it was before the shooting, Weaver said he is thankful for the support of the Youngstown Police Department and his brothers and sisters in the fire department.

“We are a big team here. We are a brother and sisterhood. Whatever they go through, we go through. We try to take care of each other and that is the way it is in this profession. It affects us all,” Weaver said.