Pinellas provides paramedics ballistic protection, not Hillsborough

Investigations

Clearwater, Fla. (WFLA) – Anytime any Clearwater Fire Rescue unit rolls on a call, it is equipped with bulletproof vests and helmets. 

“We run all sorts of calls as paramedics, assaults shootings, stabbings, so this is just another level of protection we can give to our personnel,” Clearwater Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Alex Monte said.

If an engine has four seats, there are four ballistic helmets and vests.

According to Chief Monte, the county provided ballistic protection for every unit and ambulance back in 2016.

Wearing this protective equipment is the standard operating procedure, especially on shooting calls.

“Anytime we get this type of specific calls they’re to don these vests prior to leaving the station,” Chief Monte explained.  

In Hillsborough, the sheriff’s office and fire rescue are training together to prepare for active shooter incidents.

According to Colonel Ciro Dominguez of the Hillsborough County Sheriff”s Office, deputies will seek out and contain the shooter.

Others escort fire-medics in, to treat the wounded. 

“Our job is to deal with the threat, their job is to rescue the injured,” Colonel Dominguez stated.

8 On Your Side obtained Hillsborough County Fire Rescue training documents that state fire rescue personnel will not have ballistic protection.

That has raised concerns with Local 2294 of the International Association of Firefighters, which represents county firefighters.

“Any good department is going to protect their people,” union spokesman Travis Horn said. 

Mr. Horn contends sending fire-medics in without ballistic protection is evidence that Hillsborough Chief Dennis Jones and County Administrator Mike Merrill are more committed to trimming the budget than 
keeping personnel safe.

“I’d tell them don’t ask the firefighters to do something you’re not willing to do yourself,” Mr. Horn added.

8 On Your Side has learned that Pasco County and Temple Terrace fire units are also equipped with bulletproof vests. 

According to Clearwater Fire Rescue’s Assistant Chief Alex Monte, bulletproof protective equipment is on the city’s units for a reason.  

He said he would absolutely not send his crews into an active shooter incident without protective vests and helmets.

“It’s just not safe.,” Chief Monte explained.  “And we want to make sure our personnel are protected at all times.”

If you know of something that you think should be investigated call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1 800 338-0808.

Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

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