PHOENIX (AP) - More than 60 firefighters with the Phoenix Fire Department have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Phoenix Fire is the nation’s fifth largest fire department with 60 fire stations serving Arizona’s largest city.
As of July 7, the department had reported 62 positive COVID-19 cases among firefighters.
Another 100 members out of 1,585 are currently quarantined during the testing process, awaiting their results and seven civilian members have also tested positive.
“Right now our service delivery model is supporting the loss of the folks we have,” said Phoenix Fire Capt. Rob McDade. “So we’ve built everything out to a doomsday scenario of staffing, we’re doing critical staffing, folks are working extra shifts, it’s all hands on deck right now for the Phoenix Fire Department.”
Every third day, city firefighters report to duty for at least 24 hours and share a fire station with a variety of people while sleeping, eating and living together.
As many as 60 Phoenix firefighters have been taken off duty within a day because of a single exposure due to the environment they work in. That results in a mandatory quarantine for firefighters until they are tested and receive their results.
Despite wearing full personal protective equipment, firefighters are still getting exposed and contracting coronavirus, which impacts their manpower.
“It wasn’t until the re-opening when we started seeing our cases actually skyrocket,” McDade said. “Our numbers grew exponentially.
“We had multiple members at one station, then a few days later, we had another rash of multiple members at another station... We’re starting to stretch our numbers in our personnel, people working 48 to 72-hour shifts.”
McDade said two Phoenix fire stations have been deep cleaned with electromagnetic cleaners and the rest cleaned by members every day. They also have a COVID-19 decontamination protocol in place for their ambulances.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The Phoenix Firefighters Association represents about 1,600 firefighters in the city. The union also has members from other fire departments including Glendale, Tempe, Chandler, Surprise and Peoria.
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