Injuries for First Responders Increasingly a Part of the Job

September 11, 2017 10:29 PM

There are 20,000 firefighters in Minnesota.  

More than half of them, 56 percent, say injuries or violence are increasingly part of the job, according to the state Bureau of Labor Statistics.


In the summer of 2016, a Minneapolis fire truck with a full crew on board was shot up in south Minneapolis as it headed back to the fire house.  

In another example, Martha Fecht said that over the course of her 12-year firefighting career she has been assaulted a couple of times in the back of an ambulance while taking care of a patient headed to the hospital.

"It wasn't too serious," she said. "We are typically not by ourselves back there which is a good thing, so we're usually able to manage the problem."

Some firefighters in Minnesota are also paramedics or EMTs. Whether fighting fires or responding to other calls for help, the first responders say they often see people at their worst.  

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A recently released report by the National Fire Prevention Association revealed women are six times more likely than their male counterparts to be hurt by a patient.  

At a ceremony Monday in St. Paul honoring the work and sacrifice of firefighters across the country, St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler talked about the challenge firefighters face to take care of themselves while trying to take care of others.

"I think it's important, and every firefighter is a little different," Butler said.

At the Como Lakeside Pavilion, firefighters from local departments listened as the St. Paul Fire Federation addressed workplace injuries, violence and ways to mitigate those issues.  

Butler said 62 firefighters have died in the line of duty in St. Paul, and 217 have died statewide. Even more have been battered and bruised. 

The foundation emphasized the importance of investing in physical training and emotional support when the bell rings.

"After the call we stand together, talk and debrief at the scene of lessons learned and what we can apply to the future, plus counsel and support one another," Butler said.

The League of Minnesota Cities and departments across the state say they are working to create safer, healthier and better-equipped crews.

Some ideas to achieve that goal include: providing body armor, portable hands-free radios for continuous contact with dispatch, joint training with other departments, and developing standard procedures for potentially violent situations.

Fecht offered other ways, as well. "Prevention is a huge part of it, working smart when on a scene, using a team to do lifts and all the equipment available to us."

Another ceremony will take place Sept. 24 in St. Paul at the Minnesota Fallen Firefighter's Memorial, which honors the 217 who've died in the line of duty. 


Beth McDonough

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