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'Almost impossible' for firefighters to evade surprise attacks, says expert

Author: Michael Martinez, CNN

Date: 2013-04-15
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(CNN) -- Of all the scenarios firefighters train for, confronting a hostage-taker might not seem to be high on the list. Or suddenly dodging a sniper's deadly aim.

But training and keeping calm apparently did come into play last Wednesday [Apr. 10] when four Gwinnett County (GA) firefighters became hostages while a gunman held off authorities. The situation ended with the firefighters free and the gunman dead at the hands of police.

That incident highlighted a fact of life for firefighters -- their life-saving work can sometimes put them in the middle of criminal situations.

The Georgia event is akin to last year's New York state incident in which a sniper ambushed and killed two firefighters responding to his burning home, one expert said Thursday. Firefighters are trained to call police if they sense a potentially violent situation, but the Georgia and New York episodes involved surprise attacks.

"It's almost impossible to prepare for that situation if there's no indication of any potential threat," said Philip Stittleburg, chairman of the National Volunteer Fire Council and the National Fire Protection Association.

"Tragic as these situations are, they are relatively rare," Stittleburg added.

For sure, local firefighters will now be working with extra vigilance, said Capt. Tommy Rutledge of Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services. The hostage-taking incident occurred after firefighters entered the home of a man in response to a medical call.

Read full story at

- People, Places & Things/ (via CNN, 4/12/13)


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