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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Firework attack highlights dangers we can face

We don't always know in advance when an incident is going to turn violent

Editor's note: An unruly mob lured emergency personnel to a southwestern Illinois housing complex Sunday with reports of a blaze, a shooting and other crimes, then repeatedly attacked them with fireworks and bottle rockets. Check out our Editorial Advisor Adam K. Thiel's take below on the incident. Does your fire department have a standard operating procedure or guideline (SOP/SOG) for responding to violent incidents? Go to the bottom of our homepage to cast your vote in the latest FireRescue1 poll.

It is sometimes easy to forget that despite fire departments' generally high public approval ratings, we don't always get treated well by the communities we are sworn to protect.

At some level, that's probably to be expected when we encounter people on what is often the worst day of their lives.

Unfortunately, however, the event described in this article is not the first time firefighters, EMS workers, or law enforcement officers have been specifically targeted for harm; nor will it be the last.

Remember that, as in this case, we don't always know in advance when an incident is going to turn violent.

How many of us think about an ambush when dispatched to a seemingly routine dumpster fire? Once again, situational awareness is the key to recognizing unsafe conditions and taking action to protect ourselves by immediately withdrawing until our law enforcement partners have secured the scene.

Enough firefighters have been killed or injured while responding to violent incidents that the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) acknowledged this critical issue in one of its 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives (FLSI):

  • National protocols for response to violent incidents should be developed and championed.

The complete list of FLSI and other safety-related resources can be found through the NFFF's Everyone Goes Home website at

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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