AUSTIN, Texas — An Austin firefighter was stabbed early Monday morning while putting out multiple fires, the Austin Fire Department (AFD) confirmed.
The department was putting out multiple fires along Interstate 35, near the Riverside Drive exit. While firefighters were putting out the fires, a person approached them and became aggressive, according to AFD.
It was close to 3 a.m. when AFD shift commander Eddie Martinez said firefighters found a man, identified as 59-year-old Kelly Ingroum, walking along the highway setting the fires with something he was carrying.
"Our firefighters questioned him. When they questioned him, he became agitated," Martinez said.
As Ingroum was moving, firefighters walked behind him putting out fires.
After Ingroum dropped the item he was igniting the fires with, he then began walking on the inside shoulder on the southbound side of I-35.
According to an affidavit, firefighters noticed Ingroum was "not right." He ran into the highway, prompting a firefighter to quickly pull him out of the lane. While firefighters were holding him down, awaiting police arrival, one noticed a stab wound in the leg.
"After that, he walked into traffic, to I-35 proper, and our firefighters got in his way to keep him from getting into traffic. And when that happened [was] he stabbed one of our firefighters in the thigh," Martinez said.
Martinez said firefighters quickly detained Ingroum and disarmed him. Austin police arrived and took him into custody.
"I spoke with the firefighter recently. He has about a 2-inch-deep stab into his leg, his thigh area. It did not hit any arteries. He's with his family and he's doing fine," said Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Firefighters Association.
Nicks said this incident reflects another type of emergency in the city.
"That's mental health. That's clearly what this was. And police officers are trained in that, EMS is and so is fire. It's just in this case, we need more people on scene sooner. It would have been a better outcome perhaps," Nicks said. "Police have body armor. EMS has body armor. We don't."
Now that Austin is the 10th largest city in the country by population, Nicks wants to highlight the issues that first responders face.
"There's areas of this town that are not as safe as they used to be," Nicks said. "For whatever the reasons are, you know, firefighters are more at risk than ever."
A portion of I-35 was closed near the Riverside Drive exit while investigators remained on the scene, but the southbound lanes were reopened as of 5:45 a.m. Monday.