Bullet-proof vests now part of daily life for Fairfield firefighters

Fairfield firefighters and paramedics are now equipped with red ballistic vests.

The 44 vests will be part of the everyday equipment on all fire department vehicles, which were purchased in October so personnel can be protected if called to assist potentially violent situations, said Deputy Fire Chief Tom Wagner.

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“We have 44 vests distributed by various sizes to each of our three fire stations,” he said. “Each morning, every crew member on duty is required to select the appropriate size vest and place it on their assigned vehicle, so they have access throughout their entire shift.”

Fairfield allocated $20,000 for the 44 vests, which cost $425 each from Point Blank Body Armor. The vests are rated Level IIIA with three flexible plates capable of stopping small arms fire.

Many fire departments across the nation have purchased ballistic vests as departments have responded to active shooter and police standoff situations. .

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Recently, there was a 30-hour police standoff in Liberty Twp. during which a 10-year-old boy was held in an apartment against his will. The suspect was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, felonious assault and inducing panic. Then there was a fatal drive-by retaliation shooting and a fatal shooting at Doubles bar that also left several wounded in a notable 2016 case.

No firefighter or paramedic was shot in these incidents, but the risk was there, officials said. Nationally, a Dallas paramedic was shot treating a shooting victim in May 2017, and a pair of firefighters were shot — one fatally, one wounded — in Maryland in April 2016.

Other departments that have invested in ballistic vests range from Florida to Massachusetts to Wisconsin to California.

Fairfield’s vests are red and have panels on the front and back marked “Fire,” which will distinguish them from vests worn by law enforcement officers.

Vests will be required to be worn when crews are dispatched for situations involving weapons, assaults, domestic violence and establishments that serve alcohol.

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