Fresno Firefighter shot in the line of duty

FRESNO, Calif.

An accidental medical alert call prompted a lifesaving response, but a frightened man protected his home with his gun, and a firefighter ended up injured.

"Both parties were trying to do the right thing," said Fresno Police Department deputy chief Pat Farmer. "Firefighters and EMS were trying to save a life."

A picture shows the bullet holes left in the firefighter's shorts -- after the homeowner fired one shot at what he thought -- was an intruder. The firefighter was treated for a graze wound.

Firefighters came to the home to possibly save a life. The homeowner opened fire to save his family. And only a common piece of firefighting equipment -- a hose strap -- kept the situation from being a lot worse.

A small hole in the blinds next to the front door, and a window screen set to the side are the only signs of anything unusual at a Northwest Fresno home.

Hours earlier, a firefighter had removed the window screen and started to enter the home, expecting to find someone in medical distress. Instead, he frightened a perfectly healthy homeowner.

"There was a lot of confusion," said Fresno Fire Department spokesman Koby Johns. "The people in the house, like I said, they didn't call the 911 system. They had no idea what was going on."

The homeowner shouted "Hey", then fired a single bullet from his registered handgun. The bullet went through the firefighter's gear, leaving a pair of holes in the shorts underneath.

The hose strap wadded up in his pocket also took a hit, but firefighters think it probably deflected the bullet and minimized the damage. Police rushed to the scene, but determined nobody had done anything wrong.

"There was no malice or intent to shoot a firefighter," said deputy chief Farmer. "He really thought it was a burglar in which the homeowner had the right to protect his family."

The homeowner told police he felt terrible about shooting a firefighter, but all he saw was a shadowy figure coming into his home.

Along with his wife and daughter, he'd been sleeping upstairs. He said nobody heard firefighters and EMS knocking and ringing the doorbell.

"And our detectives even went into the residence, went up into that bedroom, closed the door, had the fan going and had another detective ring the doorbell, knocked on the door and they couldn't hear the doorbell either," said Farmer.

Police believe the medical alert was the result of a wiring mistake. The family's landline was dead Wednesday night, and investigators think the alarm system sent a medical alert when it came back on in the middle of the night.

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