Police officers woke up early Tuesday morning and rushed to respond to a suspect reportedly firing shots in a west Phoenix home.
The man suspected of firing the shots also reportedly set the house on fire, which quickly engulfed the home in smoke causing flames to burn through the roof. In a manner of minutes a throng of Phoenix and Glendale firefighters joined police officers to handle the fire and active shooter situation.
In the end, the suspect, Alex Buckner, 26, was fatally shot by police. Buckner is believed to have set fire to his house after shooting his parents and sisters—Vic, 50; Kimberly, 49; Kaitlin, 18; and Emma, 6—who all later died from their injuries.
“We had police officers holding fire hoses, trying to knock down the fire, so that other police officers could do their job,” Phoenix Police Chief Joseph Yahner told azcentral that morning.
The extraordinary incident demonstrates how Phoenix’s newest training program, United Phoenix Response, can prevent officer injuries in situations that may involve fire.
United Phoenix Response is a joint effort from Phoenix police and fire to create internal training videos that inform both departments about how to safely perform unordinary duties.
“In short, the primary goal will be to provide tips and training to officers who respond to a working structure fire and firefighters who respond to crime scenes,” Phoenix Police Sgt. Vincent Lewis said.
Reda Bigler, Phoenix fire public information officer, attributes Tuesday’s collaborative work to communication and training efforts between departments.
“We face some of the most dangerous situations as police and fire fighters,” Bigler said. “But the conversation between us, like United Phoenix Response, that’s why why we were competent yesterday [Tuesday].”
Bigler said that this collaborative effort has been taking place for awhile as a casual conversation, but now the United Phoenix Response is an official forum for these mutual trainings.
Phoenix resident Lisa Fogel Cutlip, 51, said United Phoenix Response is an important addition to the city’s safety, but she never felt unsafe before.
“It seems like a natural thing to have them [fire and police] integrated this way,” Cutlip said. “It seems to me that the public views all of the departments as ‘first responders.’ I feel confident in these departments and I don’t think this [training] changes that.”
On Tuesday police officers safely performed their jobs despite the structure fire, however, Lewis said that previous incidents showed a need for this type of training.
“Phoenix Police has had incidents where officers were exposed to smoke and fire,” Lewis said. “Numerous lives have been saved, however there have also been numerous incidents where officers searched actively burning structures when there wasn’t anyone inside.”
Fire safety is important for all response units because, as in Tuesday’s incident, officers might arrive to a fire scene before firefighters.
Bigler said the police and fire crews were able to work together because of a series of training implementations, like how to use radio signals that involve both departments. The firefighters, specifically, even received training on active shooter and mass casualty incidents that taught them how to use triage bags to treat up to six patients each, Bigler said.
The first United Phoenix Response video, set to be released in the next two weeks, is titled “Police Response to Fires.” Future episodes of United Phoenix Response will focus on other response topics such as communication, emergency vehicle response, where to park patrol cars and fire response to crime scenes.