7News goes inside new training for local firefighters

FOXBOROUGH, MA (WHDH) - Standoffs. Active shooters. First responders becoming targets themselves.

Firefighters are being sent into more and more hostile situations. And 7NEWS Investigative Reporter Steve Tellier went inside the training for firefighters under fire.

Firefighters are increasingly being forced to fight more than just flames.

It happened in May in Chelsea. Firefighters had to wear bulletproof vests as they battled a blaze at a home where a man had earlier fired shots at police.

That has other departments taking notice and gearing up.

“We needed the most protection we could get,” said Cory Shepardson, a firefighter paramedic with the Foxborough Fire Department.

7NEWS was there as Foxborough firefighters donned brand new Kevlar helmets and bulletproof vests, and prepared for that kind of worst case scenario.

“You train for it, but you don’t want to have to put it on,” Shepardson said.

The setup for the training, which took place last month, was that a shooter had opened fire on a packed house party.

“Loud music playing, strobes, smoke – the whole nine yards, so that they’re completely disoriented,” said Leo Reardon, the paramedic program director for First Response Emergency Medical Education, which conducted the training.

Firefighters were sent in minutes later to try to rescue as many victims as they could while the gunman was still on the loose.

“Effectively, their lives are in danger when they’re in here treating these patients,” Reardon said.

The extra armor helps firefighters get to victims faster because they don’t have to wait for police to fully secure a scene like that. And the sooner paramedics can tend to the injured, the more lives that can be saved.

“Unfortunately, it’s the world we live in,” Shepardson said.

The Foxborough Fire Department worked for two years to get the gear and training for just such a situation.

Because the worst case is becoming commonplace.

“Lord knows, that day that that might happen, we’re going to be trained and ready to go,” Shepardson said.

According to the Massachusetts Fire Chiefs Association, most fire departments in our state don’t have bulletproof gear. A single helmet and vest set can cost $1,000 or more – a hurdle, especially for smaller fire departments.

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