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Rural Wake County fire departments get bulletproof vests and helmets

Rural Wake County fire departments received 242 sets of ballistic vests and helmets Nov. 30, 2023.
Alice Avery
Wake County Government
Rural Wake County fire departments received 242 sets of ballistic vests and helmets Nov. 30, 2023.

Wake County has distributed bulletproof vests and helmets to firefighters in 17 departments that serve rural areas.

A report from the International Public Safety Association says between 2000 and 2017, there were nearly 2,000 occupational deaths involving fire and EMS personnel in the U.S.

"We're seeing it all over the U.S. where there are interactions with first responders that are violent or hostile," said Joseph Vindigni, deputy director of operations for fire and emergency management services in Wake County. "We're seeing some of the same things here in Wake County as well."

Wake County commissioners allocated nearly $1 million this year to buy ballistic gear for firefighters and EMS responders. They said the vests and helmets are needed to protect personnel from more frequent hostile situations.

"When you see law enforcement get dispatched to a violent crime, injury, shooting or stabbing, firefighters and paramedics are responding as well so they're on those scenes just like law enforcement is," Vindigni said

Fire departments received 242 sets of vests and helmets this week. Another 450 sets will go to EMS departments across the county.

Last year, a local nonprofit, The 200 Club of Wake County, donated 10 bulletproof vests to the Raleigh Fire Department, which also bought 15 more.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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