LODI, Calif. (KTXL) — When headed out to calls, Lodi firefighters throw on their gear and grab their boots, but soon they’ll be adding more protective equipment to their rigs.
“You need to have access to this type of equipment at-the-ready state all the time,” said Lodi Fire Chief Ken Johnson.
Johnson said he would like to have bulletproof vests and ballistic helmets for all his firefighters.
They wouldn’t be used on every call — only those they respond to with law enforcement that involves weapons, like active-shooter situations.
“You never know when something like this is going to take place and to be able to respond quickly is important,” Johnson said.
He said Stockton firefighters already have them, and he wants Lodi firefighters protected too.
“You never know when something like this is going to take place and to be able to react quickly is important,” Johnson said.
The Lodi Fire Foundation recently launched a fundraising campaign to help pay for the new equipment.
“These heroes, they’ll go into anything and nothing stops them from doing their job, and we need to put as much protection behind them as we possibly can,” said Mark Wallace, president of Lodi Fire Foundation.
Wallace said the campaign was in the works back in 2020 prior to the shooting death of Stockton Fire Captain Max Fortuna.
“We had this planned well before that tragedy happened. Again out of respect to Stockton Fire, we decided to hold off on that,” Wallace said.
Johnson, a close friend of Fortuna, said the ballistic helmet and vest wouldn’t have saved him because he wouldn’t have been wearing it on that call.
Wallace said one helmet and vest costs about $2,000, and the goal is to purchase 20 of them, which is a cost the city can’t handle alone.
“The fire foundation exists to help fund the unmet needs of the Lodi Fire Department,” Wallace said. “There’s never enough money to fully fund all the different things that the firefighters need.”
“This would put a bulletproof vest and ballistic helmet in every position on all four fire engines and our truck, which would then pre-deploy throughout our community,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the protective equipment could mean the difference between life and death for firefighters and potential victims.
“The ultimate goal is to never have to use them, right. That’s our ultimate goal. But the reality is that we see these types of incidences throughout the United States every year,” Johnson said. “And if that happens in our area, and if we were able to deploy quickly, absolutely, it would save lives.”
The Lodi Fire Foundation is helping to organize a golf tournament next week that will help raise some of the money needed, but it said it will also need the community’s support to make up the difference.