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Ohio Fire Department Allowing Firearms for Personal Defense

Bethel Twp. Fire and EMS Department Chief Jacob King and some department personnel are now carrying guns on the job.

A Springfield area fire department is allowing its personnel to carry concealed guns for personal defense.

The Bethel Twp. fire department is the only Ohio department allowing firefighters to carry guns, the president of the state fire chiefs' association believes.

The department's chief said a crisis last week is one reason why.

Five unarmed emergency personnel - on what they thought was a routine medical run in Georgia - were taken hostage by a gunman.

STATter911 Raw video: Gwinnett County, GA firefighters talk about being taken hostage.

JEMS Georgia Hostage Situation Coverage

The man was shot dead by SWAT officers, who stormed his house after the 2 ?-hour standoff Wednesday. The firefighters suffered minor injuries.

"Here's a perfect example of why we took on this stance - to give us the ability to have an exit strategy," Bethel Twp. Fire and EMS Department Chief Jacob King said.

King doesn't have specific knowledge of the circumstances there, and he couldn't say for sure if a gun in the hands of the rescuers would have helped them escape. But he felt the situation would likely have played out differently.

About a year ago, select Bethel Twp. personnel were permitted to carry concealed weapons.

The move was, in part, a response to increasing hostilities toward the men and women who respond to fight fires and treat victims of emergencies, he said.

Dayton Fire Chief Herbert Redden said when his EMS personnel are dispatched to a potentially violent situation, they set up a staging area and wait for police to secure the scene before entering.

"The decision was made by me, supported by the city manager, that we will not arm our EMS personnel," Redden said. "We are in some precarious situations. ... Where are you going to carry that weapon on you, so that patient, who may require mental help, (cannot get) access to the weapon, and create an even worse situation? It's a bad idea."

Redden said the Dayton Fire Department training staff teaches a class to all EMS personnel on defensive training for dangerous situations and how to mitigate potential threats.

Potential ambushes, not enough revenue to afford a 24-hour law enforcement contract with the sheriff 's office, and wait times for a deputy to respond from other parts of the county led King's department to ask trustees for approval for select personnel to carry concealed weapons. The trustees unanimously agreed.

"The township had to reduce our sheriff 's deputies from two to one based on the police fund, so ... we knew that our response times for law enforcement from the sheriff 's office was going to be significantly delayed responding to calls in our jurisdiction," King said.

King likened personnel carrying concealed weapons to other tools the department carries but will likely never use.

"For an example, we carry radiation detectors on our rescue truck. That's a tool that we'll probably never use, be we have it available to us in the event that we may have some type of radioactive problem," he said.



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