Extra firefighters now responding amid security concerns in Pioneer Square, homeless camps

SEATTLE — Increased security concerns led Seattle fire to adopt a new policy that has two crews responding to calls in Pioneer Square and Seattle homeless camps.

For instance, last week, crews from the city cleaned up a homeless camp in the International District, where a large machete was found.

And firefighters sometimes face large crowds when responding to a medical call, which can be a safety concern.

Typically, two or four firefighters would respond for basic medical calls.

But since May 21,  a minimum of six firefighters – or two units – are now responding to calls in some areas.

The extra personnel are for added security.

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“It’s a crowd control issue. When we get there, our primary concern is obviously the patient care. So we get there, trying to seek the patient out, and often times there can be 30, 40 people on the sidewalk,” said Seattle Fire Assistant Chief Bryan Hastings.

The parts of town affected are locations around Pioneer Square, mostly centered around the area near the King County Courthouse and homeless service providers.

The policy also applies to all calls at or near homeless encampments.

The Seattle Fire Department says the guidelines are temporary but may be made permanent after a review period.

"It's a pilot program. We’ll be assessing it. As the situation continues, we’re looking at all the data and all the metrics to see if our members are declaring there are problems,” said Hastings.

Seattle police can be requested to help escort firefighters, and that practice will still be used if necessary.