A Berkeley firefighter narrowly escaped serious injury when he was shot at while responding to an emergency medical call at an elderly man’s home early today, a fire department spokesman said. Firefighters responded to a home in the 1200 block of Dwight Way at 1:41 a.m. after they received an automated medical alert indicating that someone at the residence was having an emergency, acting Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb said. Firefighters asked Berkeley police to respond as well because the house was locked, but while they were waiting for police to arrive, the elderly man who lives there fired a gun at them, striking one of the firefighters, Webb said.
However, the bullet hit the firefighter’s Swissphone, which Webb said is a pager-like device firefighters wear around their belts to receive communications. The device “no doubt saved the firefighter from having significant injuries or worse,” Webb said. The firefighter was treated at the scene and, at this point, doesn’t appear to need further treatment, he said. Webb said the elderly man who lives at the house was taken away in an ambulance. Berkeley police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats wasn’t immediately available for comment. Webb said the firefighter who was shot and the other firefighters who responded to the emergency call were released from their duties for the rest of the day for “defusing,” a department policy that allows them time to deal with the psychological effects of a traumatic situation. He said Berkeley firefighters are used to responding to other types of emergencies such as burning buildings and natural gas leaks, “but most incidents don’t include firearms and circumstances like this.”