Barricaded man pulls gun on Austin firefighters after fire

A frantic caller reported a house fire to the Austin Fire Department a little before 9 p.m. Monday night.

When firefighters got to the house on the 2300 block of Willow in East Austin they saw no fire on the outside so they went in.

"Found a small fire in a room and what they described as a subject barricaded by some furniture and cushions in the backroom," said AFD Division Chief Palmer Buck.

Buck says they put a hose line in the house and put out what fire they saw.   Then firefighters tried to get the barricaded man out of the house but he didn't want to go anywhere.

"He pointed a gun at them.  At that point the fire department backed out of the house and APD was already in route," Buck said.

That's when SWAT took over.

"Everyone else that was in the house is now safe that originally called and one female is being treated for possible anxiety attack," said APD's Demitri Hobbs.

The suspect was eventually taken into custody.

"They work everyday putting their life at risk for us.  The least we can do is give them an opportunity to defend their own lives," said State Senator Don Huffines from Dallas.

The Republican Senator is the author of Senate Bill 1408.  In response to last year's ambush in the streets of his hometown, the bill would allow first responders like firefighters and paramedics to carry a firearm on the job. provided they get an LTC and a 20-hour training course.

"It's important that our first responders have an opportunity to defend themselves.  We need to trust them.  Those are the good guys," Huffines said.

Last week the Senator's bill passed out of the Senate.  And there's a similar measure in the house.

"I'm very confident we're going to get one to the Governor's desk.  One of the two bills," Huffines said.

We spoke with Chris Barron, Executive Director of the State Firefighters' and Fire Marshals' Association of Texas by phone.

Barron sees some potential issues with first responders carrying.

"If they are having to go into a burning building, where do you secure that weapon?  If they are performing first aid etc. and they have a side arm on them," Barron said.

But there's two sides to it in Barron's eyes.  He says provided firefighters go through the training, they should have the right.

"I'm also a fire chief.  And I would have some reservations about allowing my firefighters to carry but then again I want my firefighters and emergency personnel protected and I don't want them getting into a hostage situation in which they're fearing for their lives or one of them might lose a life due to them just providing a service," Barron said.

Huffines says what happened in Austin on Monday could have had a more tragic outcome.

"It could have been a real different story if we had the tragedy and the horror of two first responders being shot there, that's...it just shows the importance in my legislation.  This is about self-defense," Huffines said.

By the way the Austin Fire Department is filing a Felony 1 arson charge on the guy who pulled a gun on them.
               
The arson charge carries a 5 to 99-year prison term and a possible $10,000 fine.

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