FR1 Exclusive: Behind the scenes of Ferguson's mayhem
FireRescue1 video producer takes you along with emergency response crews on the first night of the Ferguson riots
By Greg Friese
FERGUSON, Mo. — FireRescue1 video producer was in shock after witnessing violent protests last night in Ferguson, following the grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer in the killing of unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown.
"I never expected to watch buildings burn one after another," Ray Kemp, a former medic, reported by phone from Ferguson. "I could not believe what I was filming. It was sickening to watch."
The FireRescue1 camera crew is embedded, with permission, at the command center and has been responding with fire and EMS. The crew was also embedded during the August civil unrest.
"When the first fire call came in we followed the fire task force down the road," Kemp said. Ferguson firefighters, with police cover, followed their recently updated SOG and training to drop the hose line as soon as a quick knockdown was achieved.
"From our position on West Florissant, we watched the firefighters disconnect and leave hoses lying in the streets," Kemp said.
When gunfire escalated, the FireRescue1 camera crew took cover behind their vehicle. Gunfire was close and aimed at the police line they were positioned with. At that point, buildings were left to burn as "there was too much gunfire and the firefighters were clearly at risk," Kemp said.
EMS ready to assist
Despite the prevalence of gunfire and numerous structure fires, the FireRescue1 camera crew did not have a chance to embed with an ambulance crew or EMS task force.
"My understanding is that there were injuries, but EMS was not overwhelmed," Kemp said. "I am glad no first responders were injured."
Paramedics were prepared with additional PPE last night.
"EMS personnel were wearing blue bullet proof vests and B2 helmets," he said. Head protection is especially important as one of the biggest risks for EMS personnel is head and facial injury from thrown objects, like bricks and bottles.
Kemp expects the unrest to continue for many days.
"What we saw last night was very similar to the first night of protests in August," he said. Fire, EMS, and law enforcement are anticipating and preparing for the violence to continue — possibly even escalating in the days and nights ahead.
If the August pattern repeats itself, emergency responders should expect relatively peaceful daytime protests. The FireRescue1 camera crew is preparing for another busy night because Kemp expects "violence to be much more likely when darkness falls."
"It is an honor," he said, "for us to be embedded with our emergency responders."