Fire departments take precautions after deadly police shootings

Departments taking off uniforms while off-duty, offering bulletproof vests

KIRBY, Texas – The morning after shots rang out during a protest in Dallas, killing five officers and wounding seven others, the fire chief of Bexar County District 7 Fire & Rescue had a new order for his firefighters. They were not to wear their uniforms on the way to or from work.

Chief Kevin Clarkson worries that in their blue uniforms or even their T-shirts, his firefighters could be mistaken for police officers.

"Somebody that has an ill intent towards law enforcement might confuse them and take that out on them," he said.

With recent ambushes of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, some Bexar County fire departments, like District 7, are taking precautions to protect their firefighters. While Clarkson is making sure they don't have gear on outside of work, others are getting extra gear while they're on duty.

Whenever Kirby firefighters go out on a call now, they have the option of grabbing a bulletproof vest. After Dallas, firefighters concerned about threats they saw on social media toward firefighters and EMTs asked the Kirby Police Department for spare vests.

The police provided the Kirby Fire Department with four vests, and a firefighter bought a fifth.

"They want to utilize the vests out in the county area, where the incidents of coverage from the Bexar County Sheriff's Office, where the incidents of coverage takes a little longer to get coverage there," said Carlos Alfaro, Kirby Fire Department assistant chief.

They're not alone. Bexar County Emergency Services District 2 has some vests already, but interim Chief Ralph Rodriguez said they're shopping around in hopes of having one available for every firefighter.

Describing the need for the vests, Rodriguez echoed Clarkson's concern.

"Sometimes, our guys do look like police officers," he said. "So, we're trying to do whatever we can to keep them safe due to the fact that they're not armed."

At the District 7 station on Galm Road, firefighters' uniform restrictions only extend to them being off-duty. When they get a call, they'll still being going out suited up as usual.

"We can't just not go out in public," Clarkson said. "That's not an option."

A San Antonio Fire Department spokesman said the department has not told its firefighters to avoid wearing their uniforms while off-duty. However, the department is considering getting bulletproof vests. The spokesman said that was not specifically because of the shootings.

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