Single engine was dispatched for report of a vehicle fire. A single engine responded with crew of 4. While enroute crew given report of “half-naked man standing on the top jumping up and down”, “at first it looked like he was burning stuff in the back, now flames are coming from the cab.” 2nd caller reported that the “male walking away westbound, 40ish, white male, 5’11”, thin long hair, didn’t appear to have a shirt on, was wearing jeans.” Another caller, “male yelling profanity, no shirt on, appears under the influence.” The department SOP for responding to potentially hostile environments is to stage until the arrival of law enforcement. At this point, it appears as though the male could be gone from the scene, as well as the information given could be interpreted as non-hostile. Engine Company arrived to find fully involved 1/2 ton p/u. Engine Company stated during critique of this call that they did not see the male onscene during arrival. He approached during operations. Engine Company proceeded with suppression operations. Officer sitting in officer seat was then approached by a male that was covered on his upper torso and face with soot, also had a cut around his neck similar to a knife cut. The male requested to sit inside the engine and get warm. Also stated there was someone after him with a gun. The officer, recognizing the peculiar circumstances, denied his request. The engineer at the pump panel then noticed the male and brought him to the compartment at the side of the engine with the EMS equipment in it. The engineer then proceeded to treat the male for his wound. A BLS transport unit was then requested. During treatment of the male, he asks if the engineer has a gun. The male appears to be calm but very nervous. The male sees the AED sitting in the compartment and pulls it out asking if it is a gun. The engineer grabs the AED, manages to get it away from the male, and explains what it is used for then shuts the compartment. After this point, law enforcement is arriving and the male appears to become very nervous. He gets up and proceeds to the back of the engine where he notices another LE (law enforcement) patrol car arriving. The male grabs an axe mounted on the rear of the engine and then starts wandering around purposefully wielding the axe. Law enforcement officers approach him with weapons drawn advising him to drop the axe. During this point in time, the engine crew has observed the actions, the officer has honked the air horn to alert the crew on the hoseline, and all crew members outside of the vehicle have stopped and gotten out of the way of the circumstances happening. The officer inside the engine has given “play-by-play” traffic to the fire dispatcher alerting them to what was going on. He has also alerted incoming units to stage due to the situation. After the LE officers approach the male, he begins to taunt them with the axe. At which point he lunges toward the closest officer with the axe. The LE officer shoots him in the chest/abdomen. After this point, the officer on the engine alerts fire dispatch that there is 1 patient down with a GSW to the chest and to start a medic unit. Police then handcuff the male and secure the axe. The incident ends with the male being transported to the local hospital after having to be subdued by 2 police officers and medics in the back of the medic unit. Behind the story is the male’s use of methamphetamines. The truck he was using was stolen from another male he had been doing meth with that night.
Recognizing potential hostile environments was recognized through critique as a valuable lesson. Asking appropriate questions to the fire dispatch that may queue suspicions of potential threats to personnel responding. Recognizing key information with an attitude more geared towards suspicion than responding to a typical incident. Also recognizing when a situation goes bad is important, not just during response. Being able to pull people away from the incident and to a safety zone is an important procedure that all should be familiar with. Bottom line is that we may not always be able to prevent similar incidents like this but we must be prepared for them to occur and not turn a blind eye to their potential at any incident we respond to. Another issue recognized was the dispatcher down playing the reports from callers and from the on-scene personnel’s radio traffic. The dispatcher according to our protocol is supposed to repeat radio traffic exactly as it is heard and not alter or make the comments come across in a different manner. During the critique it was recognized while listening to the taping of the radio traffic that the dispatcher did not clearly state the facts of the incident or repeat transmissions as heard, but more of a cleaned up version. Also, some information was omitted on the radio but was visible on the mobile data terminal for the officer, which was not online during this incident. No telling if this played any important role in this scenario, but should be a point to dispatchers that there job is important to responders in painting a clear picture of the incident.
* Reporting your event to the national system can help prevent injuries and save the lives of other firefighters