CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - Firefighters tasked with saving our lives are getting a new piece of equipment that could save theirs: Bulletproof vests. They say this is the new reality they face when they respond to a call.
The department purchased more than 300 vests last month. One of the first times they were used was when crews responded to the UNC Charlotte shooting.
Battalion Chief Matt Westover straps on five extra pounds of gear, the newest tool in the firetruck.
"We are in some situations that are extremely dangerous,” Westover told FOX 46.
The Charlotte Fire Department purchased the hundreds of vests as a new security measure for crews, with each costing roughly $1,200.
"I pushed back on this legislation because not because I don't support my firemen which I do but I will not accept this as the new reality,”
After some push back, city council approved the new armor for firefighters last year
"I respect the councilmen's point of view… the reality is the world has changed considerably,” Chief Reginald Johnson said.
Charlotte firefighters say in a moment’s notice the situation they are called to can escalate.
"The working relationship between fire and police has changed in such that we are finding ourselves in these dynamic situations that are constantly changing,”
On Thursday, a firefighter was killed in Wisconsin after he was shot responding to a call.
But one of the first times these vests were used by firefighters was during the deadly UNC Charlotte shooting.
"The information that was provided to our responders indicated that they needed to take the highest level of protection"
24 years ago Westover says he never imagined these vests would be part of the job. Now he wants to give his team a new sense of security
"We just want to be prepared for everything," he said.
The new vests come as CMPD Chief Kerr Putney is talking about a new strategy: He wants to stage Medic and firefighters a couple blocks away when police respond to an active shooting situation.