The City of Akron has announced that starting the week of April 5th, all Akron Firefighters and EMS will wear ballistic vests and helmets on calls that are deemed more dangerous and threatening to their safety.
Mayor Dan Horrigan was quoted in a press release, saying, “This is the unfortunate but necessary result of changes in our landscape, including the increasing frequency of volatile and dangerous emergency situations. One of our highest responsibilities is to the safety of our first responders. Our firefighter/medics can’t help others unless they are safe and protected themselves.”
The protective exuipment was made possible, in part, thanks to the passage of Issue 4, the income tax increase, back in November. The press release noted that the Northern Ohio Golf Charities also provided a $29,000 to cover costs as well. According to the press release, each Akron EMS unit will be outfitted with four sets of ballistic gear (helmets and vests), "to be used whenever conditions warrant added protection." Those conditions, as explained by the city, would include active shooter situations, or other calls that have the potential for escalating into violent situations.
“Ballistic protection for the safety of our personnel has been a priority for the Akron Fire Department for many years,” Fire Chief Clarence Tucker said. “Providing our officers with this gear will allow them to more safely respond and care for victims at the scene of a shooting or other violent event.”
After a long morning waiting for conditions to improve for the safety of firefighters in their recovery efforts, seven victims have been indentified from the blaze on Fultz Street in the predawn hours.
The victims have been unofficially identified as:
Dennis Huggins, father and age unknown; Angela Boggs, mother; one year old Cameron Huggins; three year old Alivia Huggins; five year old Kylle Huggins; six year old Daisia Huggins, and 14 year old Jered Boggs. An 18-year old family member was not home at the time of the fire but was working in Sandusky. Official cause of death and ID's are pending release of the Summit County Medical Examiner but a grandmother of the children made the ID's.
A cause of the fire has not been determined, but Akron Fire Chief Clarence Tucker said the death toll matched the city's previous most deadly fire. In December of last year, a family of four was killed when fire swept through their home on Tallmadge Avenue. Members of the Ohio Fire Marshal's office were in Akron to assist in investigating a cause of this morning's fatal blaze.
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Mayor Dan Horrigan issued a statement this morning:
"Early this morning the Akron Fire Department responded to a house fire in the 600 block of Fultz Street. The Fire Department acted quickly to extinguish the flames, but were unable to immediately access the upper level of the structure due to significant, internal structural damage. Tragically, multiple lives were lost in the fire. The Fire Department is on scene for ongoing recovery, investigation, and safety efforts.
My family, the Akron Fire Department, and the entire Akron community, are profoundly saddened by this devastating incident and this tragic loss of life. My deepest sympathies and prayers are with the family and loved ones of those who perished, and we pray for strength and healing in the difficult days to come. We will see to it that the victims' families are supported in this time of great sorrow and need.
I thank the Akron Fire Department for their bravery in quickly responding to this scene in the early hours of the morning. I offer my full support and confidence as the professionals work to investigate the cause of this fire."
Akron firefighters fear there are "multiple" fatalities involved in a single-house blaze that was reported at 2:46 this morning.
The status is unknown because the burned-out shell of what remains of the two-story home at 693 Fultz Street was still too dangerous to conduct a more involved search mission. Akron Fire continues to say there are multiple fatalities and the exact number isn't know.
There have been reports this morning of at least one, possibly others dead in the blaze based on accounts from neighbors, who said a family lived in the home. AFD Lt. Serjie Lash told News5 the interior was badly damaged, and firefighters would have to use ladders to access the second floor to do a thorough search.
Firefighters closed Fultz Street between Manchester and East Avenues; the smoke from the blaze could be seen from the nearby expressway early this morning.