Firefighters in Seattle have demanded the city take action after they were subjected to more than 40 violent attacks in the past four months – a string of assaults that have been largely carried out by the city’s homeless population.
The attacks, which the city’s firefighter’s union says began in May, have seen the protectors repeatedly targeted by the intemperate down-and-outs, often while responding to fires started at the city’s growing number of homeless encampments.
One such incident, which transpired last month, saw one fire official pelted with a rock while attempting to put out a blaze that originated from an encampment fire.
Another altercation, in June, saw firefighters chased by a homeless person with a knife while responding to a medical call at one such encampment.
The string of incidents – of which there have been more than 40, union officials wrote in several letters to Seattle’s city council complaining of the assaults – has left the fire officials fearing for their safety, as well as the impact the unrest may have on the rest of the community.
It comes as the city’s mayor was forced Friday to administer an emergency plan to clear the growing number of encampments in the famously woke city.
Firefighters in Seattle have demanded the city take action after they were subjected to more than 40 violent attacks in the past four months – a string of assaults that have been largely carried out by the city’s homeless population
The attacks, which the city’s firefighter’s union says began in May, have seen the protectors repeatedly targeted by the intemperate down-and-outs, often while responding to fires started at the city’s growing number of homeless encampments (pictured is one such site)
Kenny Stuart, president of IAAF Local 27, aired the union’s concerns in a July 26 letter to the Seattle City Council, in which he explained how the attacks have left his fellow firefighters afraid to do their duty.
‘Seattle Fire Fighters are not trained or empowered to mitigate violent Individuals, and it is not conducive to our mission,’ Stuart, who has has served as a Seattle firefighter since 1996, wrote in one July 26 letter obtained by a local radio station.
‘This hazard, this violence,’ Stuart went on, ‘must be proactively mitigated through policies and actions of our elected officials, law enforcement, and leaders within the Seattle Fire Department.’
Stuart went on to cite the dangers his fellow firefighters are facing by recounting several of the brazen attacks, which transpired when officials responded to a call stemming from a homeless encampment.
In one instance in July, crews showed up to a camp to put out flames started by inhabitants, who threatened the first responders with weapons, including a steel rebar club.
Kenny Stuart (pictured), president of IAAF Local 27, aired the union’s concerns in a July 26 letter to the Seattle City Council, in which he explained how the attacks have left his fellow firefighters afraid to do their duty.
Stuart wrote that the incident saw a female firefighter kicked in her genitalia by one of the perpetrators, and slapped in separate attacks by other homeless citizens.
In another incident on July 18, Stuart detailed how a firefighter responding to another encampment fire was struck by a large rock while putting out the blaze, hurled by an unhappy inhabitant of the camp.
Another attack on June 3, Stuart wrote, saw a fire officials chased by mentally disturbed homeless patient who they had been treating after receiving a medical call, who had been wielding a knife and attempting to stab the first responders.
When the fire officials retreated into their truck, the homeless perpetrator climbed atop the engine as the officials hid inside, before eventually being detained.
In all three cases, the attackers were arrested, Stuart wrote in the letter – before revealing that all have since been allowed back into the community.
Regarding the rise in attacks on members of SFD, the most recent of which transpiring on Thursday, Stuart urged city officials to address the attacks.
‘This is a disturbing trend, and we are calling it to the attention of all of our elected leaders so that it can be addressed before there is a tragedy in our city involving an attack on public employees.’
The city has yet to fully address the burgeoning amount of camps sprouting up across the famously woke city, of which there are more than 800
Earlier this month, the city seemed to hear Stuart’s call for aid, with new Mayor Bruce Harrell releasing a statement in support of the firefighters, saying the city would work with the union to ensure fire officials’ safety.
‘I applaud their continued commitment to our collective safety, and am committed to working with the Council, SFD, and IAFF 27 to ensure that they are safe on the job and across the city.’
Harrell’s assertion comes as he has made it a point to address the burgeoning amount of camps sprouting up across the famously woke city, after inheriting the crisis upon being voted into office in January.
Seattle has since dedicated $173 million towards its homeless crisis in 2022. That is a 125 percent increase from 2018 when $77 million was budgeted towards the issue, according to city data.
This year’s budget, ordered by Harrell, included a $9.8 million spending package dedicated towards the removal of the encampments, which are often centered around RVS and house dozens of homeless inhabitants.
The city has recorded a record number of fires at encampments. 608 were recorded within the first four months of 2022 – a number that eventually swelled to 855 fires through June 30
Despite the city’s efforts, however, the number of camps have continued to increase, officials say, from 763 in May, to 814 counted in June.
The city meanwhile asserts that the current numbers are not an indication of an increase in the city’s homeless population, but rather give a more accurate assessment of the number of encampments that have surfaced throughout Seattle, where the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,334.
‘The changes for these data points are due to a combination of data collection changes, increased awareness of sites that were not previously identified, reductions due to site closures and referrals to shelter and new sites that have been identified as our data collection processes are refined,’ Harrell’s office said in a statement earlier this month.
With that said, the city has recorded a record number of fires at encampments. 608 were recorded within the first four months of 2022 – a number that eventually swelled to 855 fires through June 30.
Currently, the city reports an average of five fires originating from the ecampents per day, officials say.
Reports of shootings and shots fired near known encampment sites have also been rife, with officials reporting an average of 3 cases per week – down from 3.5 per week earlier in the year. Through June 30, there were 71 shots fired near encampment sites.
Mayor Harrell’s office has said of the number of shootings and shots fired that ‘encampments continue to be disproportionately represented in public safety emergencies in the city [and] safety and health emergencies at encampments continue to put additional strain on an already stretched-thin public safety system.’
Lisa Herbold, Seattle City Councilmember and Chair of the Public Safety & Human Services Committee, earlier this month also responded to IAFF 27’s plea for help protecting firefighters from dangers associated with these sites, expressing concern for the first responders.
‘I unequivocally condemn acts of violence and I support the safety of all in public service, especially first responders who put themselves in harm’s way, both at SPD and SFD,’ she wrote in an email to the union.
It is not immediately clear what further action the city is taking to quell the crimes being committed at the encampments.
The city has seen its homeless population swell in recent years – with the rapidly sprouting encampments serving as a product of the severe housing crisis the city is currently experiencing, fueled by rocketing rents and a rising poverty line.