Seattle mulls firefighter protections amid reports of people ‘aggressively interfering’ on calls

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council is considering a new bill that aims to better protect firefighters in the line of duty.

The legislation, proposed by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Andrew Lewis, would make it a crime to physically interfere with firefighters or other fire department employees as they try to provide aid.

Seattle City Council members are expected to vote on the bill Tuesday afternoon.

Seattle already has a law that provides similar protections for “public officers,” such as police officers. The proposed legislation would amend the crime of “obstructing a public officer” to include Seattle Fire Department firefighters and other fire department personnel.

“Every day, Seattle’s firefighters are rushing into danger to protect us, whether it be from a house fire, a car wreck, or an overdose. They do so unarmed, and often their life-saving work reviving a person makes it difficult to have any defensive awareness of a possible threat,” said Herbold in a news release. “This is a common-sense fix to Seattle’s laws that allows firefighters to focus on the dangerous work they do and makes us all safer.”

The council says it has received reports from the SFD of people “aggressively interfering” with firefighters during emergency responses, including situations where people have threatened to physically attack firefighters or tried to prevent them from extinguishing a fire.

“Over the past several years, our firefighters have been physically assaulted, verbally threatened, all while trying to serve those in need, who are often the most vulnerable in our community. When we have to delay our response because of threats, it could cause fires to increase in size or medical conditions to deteriorate,” said Seattle Fire Chief Harold D. Scoggins.

As a result of the legislation, the SFD and Seattle Police Department could also work to find strategies to ensure firefighters have the space and access to do their job and reduce confrontations before they begin.

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