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After close call, Seattle Fire isn’t taking any chances in Pioneer Square

Police investigate a deadly stabbing in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood earlier this week. (KIRO 7)

The Seattle Fire Department is sending twice the number of firefighters to some areas of Pioneer Square due to safety concerns.

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Firefighters respond to dozens of medical calls a day in the neighborhood for everything from a twisted ankle to drug overdoses. Many of those calls involve homeless people.

Normal protocol is to send an aid car, typically staffed with two people. After an incident last month, that’s no longer the case in certain parts of Pioneer Square. In areas around Second Avenue Extension South, Washington and Third Avenue South, and in all homeless encampments in the area, the department will send at least two units. That means six to eight first responders are being dispatched for security purposes.

The new policy took effect May 21, three days after two firefighters responding to an assault call in Pioneer Square were surrounded by a large group while trying to help the patient. While one treated a patient, the other tried to keep the crowd back, but eventually called police for help when the crowd interfered and created a potentially dangerous situation for the firefighters. The department was short on details of why that crowd was interfering. However, this is an area near the Union Gospel Mission men’s shelter and Downtown Emergency Services Center where open-air drug use and other criminal activities are known to occur.

Currently, Seattle Police are only automatically sent with fire units to calls around the area in the East Duwamish Greenbelt near I-5 and I-90 — the area generally referred to as The Jungle.

Under this new Pioneer Square protocol, fire crews will still call police if they feel an area is unsafe or has the potential to become unsafe and leave the area until cops can secure the scene.

The one additional cost that stems from this policy is paying for additional fuel, according to a city representative.

Seattle Fire calls this a temporary change in policy, though there is no clear end date.

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