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Battling the first blaze with bulletproof vests

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — As chaos took over Fountain last week, the Bay County Fire Rescue crews who responded experienced a first of their agency.

Multiple crews responded to Suncrest Drive Wednesday, March 4 in response to a large structure fire but as they prepared to battle the blaze, they also had another threat in the area. At that time, suspected murderer Jason Jones was still on the loose. Jones was taken into custody Thursday, March 5.

“While in route, command staff decided we were going to go ahead and put our vests on and we’re going to fight fire with our vests under our bunker gear,” said Captian Gabriel Moschella.

Every man and women responding to the scene for both Fire Rescue and EMS wearing a bulletproof vest once they got on scene.

However, Captain Moschella says they did not even get to the scene until Bay County Law Enforcement deemed it safe for them to go fight the fire.

“By the time we got out of our staging area and close enough to the scene, it was already secure by the deputies. They had the perimeter set up already looking for the suspect,” said Moschella.

He says they have worn the vests in other situations before but this was the first fire they faced while wearing the extra layer of protection.

The Bay County services received the vests in late 2019 but the conversation started in the summer of 2018 after the active shooter situation on Beck Avenue.

“So now, we keep them on our apparatus and it’s kind of up to the officer’s discretion is if we’ll put them on or not. Any type of violent call or possible violence, we go ahead and put them on.”

While Moschella says this is a great layer of protection, it was not the primary security measures taken to keep them safe. He says once they got to the fire on Suncrest, each firefighter had an armed BCSO deputy on their side.

The first line of defense, he says though are the men and women who work inside the dispatch center.

“I cannot stress it enough, our dispatchers, I mean just think about the flooding of the 911 calls they’re receiving and actually shuffling through these 911 calls and getting the pertinent information they need to relay to us on top of that and then getting the info out to us, they did a phenomenal job. It actually makes my skin crawl just thinking about their job that they have to keep us safe out in the field,” said Moschella.

While the fire itself, Moschella says, wasn’t anything different than what they had experienced before, the situation was definitely different.

“I think just your situational awareness is a little different, knowing there is a possible suspect out there with a gun, then you have a fire on top of it so that fire was very unique.”

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