COVID-19 strikes Stillwater Fire Department

Firefighters put themselves at risk as part of their job. As frontline responders in the COVID-19 pandemic, they are also face higher risk of exposure to the disease. SFD currently has 12 firefighters off work after they were diagnosed with COVID-19 or exposed to the virus that causes it. Provided

Police and firefighters put themselves at risk every day. And as part of the group on the front line for COVID-19 response, they face increased exposure to the disease.

That is taking a toll on the Stillwater Fire Department, which currently has 12 of its personnel out due to illness or exposure.

Three firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19, City Manager Norman McNickle confirmed Wednesday. An additional nine are on quarantine.

The infections and exposures are distributed across stations and across shifts, he said.

SFD is still able to meet minimum staffing requirements, but is using call backs and paying overtime to fill shifts.

The department has adopted procedures designed to slow the spread of the virus including wearing masks 100 % of the time, McNickle said.

Crews do not intermingle or visit between stations.

The department’s mechanic is traveling from site to site if his services are needed, instead of having crews bring their equipment to Station 1.

The firefighters aren’t the only city employees impacted by COVID-19. McNickle told the News Press a total of 20 city employees are off work due to the virus.

Five city employees, including the three firefighters, have tested positive and 15 employees, including the nine firefighters, are in quarantine due to exposure, McNickle said.

At least one of the employees diagnosed with COVID-19 is seriously ill, McNickle said during his report to the City Council on Monday.

He asked for thoughts and prayers for the employee, who he described as young and healthy but declined to name, citing privacy concerns.

The City has not re-implemented measures it previously used to increase separation between employees at City Hall, such as dividing workers into alternating shifts and having some people work from home.

The Stillwater Police Department is currently in good shape after dealing with its own COVID-19 outbreak last month, McNickle said. At one point, much of the department’s administrative team was taken out by the virus.

No SPD officers are ill or in quarantine at this time.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

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