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B.C. city approves $15K to buy body armour for firefighters

‘The game has changed’ for Mission firefighters amid increased threats and violence
Mission Fire Rescue Service Chief Mark Goddard answered council’s questions about body armour for firefighters at Monday’s (Mov. 6) meeting. /City of Mission Photo

An increase in threats and violence has left Mission Fire Rescue Service (MFRS) searching for an extra layer of protection.

The City of Mission council unanimously approved $15,000 to purchase body armour for firefighters at Monday’s (Nov. 6) meeting. MFRS Chief Mark Goddard outlined the need for body armour in a report.

“Statistically the homeless population by and large is not a threat to responders. When considering the sheer number of interactions to incidents every year, assaults and violence are still rare but becoming more common, and Mission is not immune to this threat,” the report reads.

The addition of overdose calls to firefighters’ duties also impacts the risk. According to the report, naloxone can quickly bring patients from a state of overdose — unconscious and calm — to an agitated state. Goddard says the situation can leave firefighters with no time to retreat if a patient becomes violent.

In the past two years, MFRS crews have been involved in several violent altercations, including an attempted axe attack on a district chief attending a burning complaint and the recent fires on Gunn Road that left one man dead.

“In the outreach capacity … I’m not as convinced that body armour would do that much and may in fact create a sense of security that may not always be there. It’s procedural more than anything … but when it came to the story of the fire on Gunn Road, there is no question. My very first inclination hearing about that was I hope our members have body armour. There is no other way that could have safely been dealt with and the idea that they had to stand by and watch that unfold was tragic.”

MFRS staff shared personal experiences from the past few years in the report that advocated for the use of body armour.

“This job is not the same as it was just a few years ago,” one firefighter wrote. “The game has changed out there and taken a dark turn and everyone needs to realize this. The safety of first responders is in jeopardy and it’s time to reassess how we can protect the ones that protect our community every day.”

Vancouver Fire Rescue has already purchased protective vests while Burnaby, Merritt, Calgary and Lethbridge are considering similar protection.

Staff will also report back to council concerning policy and training related to the use of body armour. The purchase of body armour will be funded through the Public Safety Reserve Fund.

Goddard says it’s highly unlikely that firefighters will wear their protective ensemble with body armour. Body armour would be deemed appropriate for a higher-risk medical call.

During Monday’s meeting, council also unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s capital plan for $93,300 towards the Exhaust Ventilation System at Fire Hall #1.

Dillon White

About the Author: Dillon White

I joined the Mission Record in November of 2022 after moving to B.C. from Nova Scotia earlier in the year.
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