Facing more violence, some fire stations are responding with security

Published: Aug. 16, 2017 at 3:07 PM AKDT
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Because of increasingly dangerous situations, Fire Station 1, which responds in the downtown area of Anchorage, is responding with extra people to provide security for fire fighters and stations rigs.

The Anchorage Fire Department says that when Station 1 responds to Bean's Cafe, Brother Francis Shelter, and Karluk Street, vehicles have been vandalized, and some of the firefighters have dealt with crowds of people who can turn violent when crews arrive at the shelters.

"When they encounter violence against them, it's difficult because 'we're just here to help' is generally the feeling that we have," said Alex Boyd, training assistant fire chief for AFD.

Boyd said the calls for services in that grid have gone from about 8,651 calls last year, to already 6,241 this year.

Lisa Sauder, the executive director of Bean's, agreed with Boyd that the violence at the Cafe has increased. She pointed to an increase in spice and opoid abuse as the reason for the problem.

"It's certainly a trend we've been seeing towards more violent behavior," Sauder said. "I think we're seeing it not only in the area surrounding our facility, but really citywide."

At an Anchorage assembly meeting on homelessness, AFD reported about Station 1's heavy workload.

There is extensive data being collected on the city's homeless that includes a list of 711 names of people considered the city's most vulnerable homeless. City homelessness coordinator Nancy Burke said next week the Anchorage Police department will collect additional information on the homeless numbers.

At Wednesday's meeting, assemblywoman Amy Demboski asked AFD about the added security.

"We are seeing a greater increase in violence in the area in a lot of the response across the board, but also in that area," Boyd said.