Firefighter, ambulance struck by gunfire while helping patient: "We are the good guys"

MILWAUKEE -- A Milwaukee firefighter was struck by gunfire near 40th and Lisbon early Monday, July 6th -- as he was assisting a patient who was having trouble breathing.

Officials say the firefighters were dispatched to the neighborhood around 12:30 a.m. MFD personnel assessed, treated and were in the process of transferring a patient into an ambulance when police say shots were fired in a nearby alley.

Several rounds struck the ambulance and one struck a 46-year-old Milwaukee Fire Department firefighter. That firefighter suffered a graze wound to the right side of his head. The firefighter returned to the fire station -- and was later taken to the hospital for treatment. He was released.

A search for suspects in this incident is ongoing.

Curtis ambulance struck by gunfire

"About five to six gunshots were fired. At this point in time, all crews are on edge. We are the good guys. Regardless of your situation -- we're here to provide help. (This situation) has a lot of the staff very shaken up. The atmosphere at the station is somber. It's scary to think that it can happen," Dan Robakowski with Curtis Universal Ambulance said.

Shooting incident near 40th and Lisbon

In a statement, MFD Chief Mark Rohlfing said the following:

"Milwaukee firefighters have a difficult and dangerous job and we are committed to serving our citizens. This incident will serve to heighten our awareness but will not stop us from providing needed emergency medical care to our citizens.

We join with the mayor and the Milwaukee Police Department in demanding a stop to the senseless gun violence that is causing so much pain and suffering in our city. The Milwaukee Fire Department and Milwaukee Police Department are working together on this ongoing investigation."

Chief Rohlfing is expected to address this incident in a news conference scheduled for 7:00 a.m. Tuesday, July 7th.

Curtis ambulance struck by gunfire

Milwaukee police were not initially on scene, as this was supposed to be a routine medical call. But Dave Seager, president of the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Local 215 says now, nothing is routine. Seager was the first to speak as firefighters' union leaders held a news conference at 11:00 a.m. Monday to speak about the incident at 40th and Lisbon. Seager said "the city is in an absolute crisis."

Seager urged Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and the Milwaukee Common Council to restore funding to the Milwaukee Fire Department.

"We are not trained to respond to shots fired. We are always on the front line. My objective here today is not to blame anybody. The objective here today is to basically plead with the Common Council and mayor to fund the fire department  fully and to please provide us with the police back up we need desperately to actually do our job for the citizens," Seager said.

Those whom we rely on for help are now looking for their own assistance so they can stay safe.

"We have started the process of potentially getting some sort of protective gear for them to be wearing," Robakowski said.

Mike Crivello, President of the Milwaukee Police Association also spoke at Monday's news conference.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has issued this statement on this incident:

“I am extremely grateful for the work the men and women of the Milwaukee Fire Department perform on behalf of the citizens of Milwaukee. They put their lives on the line every day.

My thoughts and prayers are with the injured firefighter and his family. It angers me that he became a victim of violence. The incident was a brazen and outrageous criminal act.

The Milwaukee Fire Department and the Milwaukee Police Department have a long-standing interest in promoting the safety of all our emergency response personnel.

We have worked with Fire Department leadership to maintain staffing levels that continue to provide excellent response times.  No budget action has closed a fire house.  The combined Fire and Police Department budgets equal 61% of the city’s total operating budget and we will continue to work with our public safety leadership  to promote and improve the safety for our firefighters and all emergency responders.”

Milwaukee Alderman Terry Witkowski has issued the following statement on this incident:

"It is outrageous and reprehensible that someone would open fire on ANY city workers, but especially caregivers who are trying to render aid to someone in serious need.

But that is exactly what occurred early this morning (12:08 a.m.) when Milwaukee Fire Department personnel responded to a residence near N. 40th St. and W. Lisbon Ave. to help a person who was having trouble breathing.

As the caregivers were attempting to place the person safely in a private ambulance for transport to a hospital, shots were fired in their direction by an unknown person. Several rounds struck the ambulance, and one round struck one of our firefighters. The firefighter suffered a graze wound to the right side of his head.

I am relieved to have learned that the firefighter’s wound was not as serious as it could have been, and I pray that he will be OK.

As chair of the Common Council’s Public Safety Committee (and as a lifelong resident of Milwaukee), it is unconscionable to think that someone would open fire in the direction of caregivers. These critical caregivers are trained to help people and to save lives, and putting their lives and safety in jeopardy under any circumstances is an affront to ALL Milwaukee citizens.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to please call Milwaukee Police at 414-935-7360."

Gunfire hits ambulance, firefighter near 40th & Lisbon

This isn't the first time in recent history that an ambulance has been struck by gunfire. On May 23rd, a Paratech ambulance was struck by gunfire, when it was driving through the intersection of Hopkins and Hampton.

The two medics on board the ambulance thought what they heard might have been a rock — and then continued to their call.

“They got out, the police were there, spotted that the squad had been hit by a bullet. Both crew members are very shaken up -- very concerned about what ended up happening and rightfully so," Teri Nitka, Director of Ambulance Operations for Paratech said shortly after the incident.

No one was hurt in that incident.

Monitor FOX6 News and for updates on this developing story.