Seattle City Council working to create protections for firefighters

May 9, 2023, 7:17 AM | Updated: 10:04 am

The Seattle Fire Department. (Seattle City Council, Flickr)...

The Seattle Fire Department. (Seattle City Council, Flickr)

(Seattle City Council, Flickr)

The Seattle City Council is considering a new bill that would give firefighters in the line of duty better protection to do their jobs properly.

The measure would make it so that firefighters are included in the city’s obstruction ordinance, which would make it a crime to physically interfere with firefighters or other fire department employees as they try to provide aid.

Seattle firefighters respond to encampment fire along I-5 in Beacon Hill

The current law does not explicitly include firefighters or other fire department employees from protection from interference. Other authorities, such as police officers, are already included in the law.

The legislation was proposed by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Andrew Lewis, who say that they proposed the legislation because the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) has reported incidents of people aggressively interfering with firefighters while they attempt to work.

“Multiple times a day, SFD’s EMTs struggle to gain access, again, to the disenfranchised, those struggling with mental health issues, those struggling with substance abuse issues, and more,” SFD Assistant Chief Chris Lombard said to council members when the bill was proposed Tuesday. “Incidents and incident scenes are often very chaotic, and when EMTs are most focused on the surroundings, they struggle to focus on the patients and to provide the best of patient care, always having to look over their shoulders.”

The council says it has received reports from the SFD of people “aggressively interfering” with firefighters during emergency responses, including situations where people have threatened to physically attack firefighters or tried to prevent them from extinguishing a fire.

“Every day, Seattle’s firefighters are rushing into danger to protect us, whether it be from a house fire, a car wreck, or an overdose. They do so unarmed, and often their life-saving work reviving a person makes it difficult to have any defensive awareness of a possible threat,” said Herbold in a news release. “This is a common-sense fix to Seattle’s laws that allows firefighters to focus on the dangerous work they do and makes us all safer.”

As a result of the legislation, the SFD, and Seattle Police Department ensure firefighters have the space and access to do their job and reduce confrontations before they begin.

The legislation unanimously passed out of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee Tuesday, and it now goes to a full city council vote scheduled for Tuesday.

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Seattle City Council working to create protections for firefighters