Hillsborough puts brakes on private effort to buy fire-medics ballistic protection


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County Fire Rescue is putting the brakes on a private fundraising effort to help buy ballistic vests and helmets for its fire-medics.

After watching 8 On Your Side reports that revealed other Bay Area fire departments equip their emergency vehicles with ballistic gear, while Hillsborough doesn’t, Bonnie McSharry contacted Fire Rescue on Thursday to ask what steps are necessary to raise and donate money to purchase the gear.

After she claims she got a warm reception, Bonnie says she was even more surprised Friday morning when she got a call from Assistant Fire Marshal Matthew Cerone.

“And he indicated I should hold off on my efforts to raise the money for the vests. That the county was checking into which vests they were going to purchase and the cost and that the county was actually going to be able to purchase the vests,” Bonnie stated.

The euphoria didn’t last long.

“That may have been a miscommunication, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know,” HCFR spokesman Eric Seidel explained. “I doubt that we would accept money for something that is going to be determined to be an essential piece of protection like that, if it’s determined to be.”

According to Seidel, fire rescue is evaluating whether it needs protective gear. All fire departments in Pinellas county, as well as Pasco Fire Rescue and the Temple Terrace Fire Department equip every emergency vehicle with ballistic vests and helmets.

HCFR contends its crews are safe because they are staging away from areas that are not secure. In active shooting incidents, the county says its fire-medics will be guarded by sheriff’s deputies in areas that law enforcement believes are clear.

That’s doesn’t cut it in Pinellas, Pasco or Temple Terrace.

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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