Dundee firefighters prepare for the unexpected

Firefighters used to fight fires. In this day and age, they also may be fighting to protect their own lives when they go into a dangerous situation with law enforcement.

“We might go to a medical call up the road, and they might start shooting at us. Who knows?” said Lt. Cory Hart of the Dundee Fire Department.

Dundee just decided to follow a growing national trend and buy protective vests for its firefighters.

“I just thought it was about time that we should be giving our personnel the protection they deserve,” Chief Joseph Carbone told FOX 13.

Dundee is the first place in Polk County to buy the vests for firefighters. It bought nine.

Polk Fire Rescue provides the vests only to its SWAT medics, and plans on getting more for its other employees soon. Lake Wales and Lakeland Fire are looking into buying them.

“Right now, the standing order is any type of situation that can have potential danger -- if we’re dispatched to an assault, stabbing, shooting, fight in progress, any of these type incidents -- they put on the vest before they leave,” said Carbone.

Dundee started thinking about getting vests after a deadly incident two years ago. Firefighters were called to a situation where a suicidal man with explosives was holed up in a warehouse. A county EMT was shot during a shootout between the gunman and law enforcement.

The EMT survived, but the suspect did not.

It was a wakeup call.  Hart says it is sad that firefighters trying to save lives need vests to protect their own.

“Obviously, if someone is going to ambush us, they are going to do whatever they want to take us out, so (the vests) are only going to offer a certain amount of protection,” he offered.  “But it is better than nothing.”