The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was given approval Tuesday to buy a $400,000 quick-response armored SUV with built-in firefighting equipment.

In a written request to the Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said there was a worldwide trend of fire being used a weapon or diversionary tactic. The sheriff cited a June stand-off in San Gabriel, where a man barricaded himself inside a relative’s home, then torched the house, fired shots at law enforcement and set off fireworks before being shot to death by deputies.

The sheriff said Jose Salvador Meza, 35, used the fire to keep deputies and SWAT team members away and to hide his movements as he fired shots at them.

“Procurement of an armored vehicle which has the ability to deploy water or fire-retardant chemicals from a best possible position of safety from gunfire would have a tremendous impact on the safety of our personnel while also enhancing the safety of the public,” Villanueva wrote to the board.

The SUV must be armored against an improved explosive device, according to the specifications for the bid.

Villanueva depends on county administrators to solicit and acquire equipment, and purchases in excess of $250,000 require the board’s approval, even though the money for the armored vehicle will come from federal grant funds.

The board’s unanimous approval was one sign that it continues to provide the Sheriff’s Department what it needs to operate, even following a hiring freeze on non-critical personnel and the shifting of funds out of the department’s direct control in response to an unaddressed budget deficit.

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