PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5 ) - Phoenix firefighters say an area of downtown Phoenix is so dangerous they now need police officers to secure areas before fire crews can respond to calls.
Firefighters told Arizona's Family the homeless population around the CASS shelter has become extremely hostile in the past few weeks, so much so they had to request the Phoenix Police Department to help them just be able to do their jobs. They said it's never been this bad before.
"There's a problem. We can say that for sure," said P.J. Dean with the United Phoenix Firefighters Association.
When Phoenix firefighters respond to a call, their first thought is to keep others safe. Now, they said the tables have turned.
"We've seen hammers, samurai swords, chains, a variety of things that have been utilized as weapons," said Dean. "We can't protect ourselves; we can't defend ourselves and treat people medically at the same time."
In the past several weeks, Dean said those living around 13th Avenue and Jefferson Street, especially those living in tent encampments, have been violent toward firefighters who responded to any kind of calls, including assaulting them and trying to get into their fire vehicles.
"Just the day before yesterday, we had three or four separate assault calls in there and a stabbing," Dean said.
That's when they requested help from Phoenix police.
"It's really nothing out of the norm, but on this one, we just wanted them to feel comfortable and safe when they're doing their job," said Cmdr. Dennis Orender with the Phoenix Police Department.
Orender is working with Phoenix Fire, where now if firefighters are called out to any call in that area, Phoenix police will "stage" the area first to make sure it's safe to enter, and then firefighters will go in.
Dean said staging is normal when it comes to shooting or stabbing calls, but he said this situation is out of the norm.
"What's unique in this situation is that we are now taking a staging response requirement just to that specific location regardless of what the call is," Dean said.
According to Phoenix police's crime stats for 2020, that area is a hot spot, one of the city's highest areas for crime. While both Phoenix Fire and Phoenix Police plan to evaluate this new protocol as they go, both entities vow calls for service won't be compromised.
"Phoenix Fire, Pheonix PD, we work very well together. Nobody's going to go out with PD services, nobody is going to go out without fire services," said Cmdr. Orender.
Although there's a homeless shelter in the area, the City of Phoenix wants to do more to make the area safer.
"It's a huge help in the moment."
Earlier this month, the Phoenix City Council voted to add 275 more beds to shelters in the area to help get people off the streets, and they also now have a homelessness task force that will meet monthly.