Firefighters on how COVID-19 has impacted their day-to-day

Firefighters deal with COVID

Sarita Patel

Many of us have been working from home during the pandemic, but what if your job requires you to be on the front lines? In a series this week, Castanet News is highlighting how first responders are dealing with COVID-19. 

Things start each shift at the Kelowna Fire Department with a stringent cleaning of the station and equipment. Social distance is also maintained between shifts.

Exactly what types of emergency calls firefighters respond to have changed. 

Deputy chief of operations Larry Hollier says they are now only going to the “critical calls” including motor vehicle accidents, technical rescues, lift-assists for BC Ambulance and, of course, fires.

Crews coordinate with paramedics to implement “doorway assessments” before entering a home, asking if anyone is sick or has left the country in the last 14 days.

“If entering into that residence is actually going to make a difference in the patient’s outcome … then our crews will actually do the full PPE, but we’re trying to minimize the use of the PPE at this point,” said Hollier. 

The fire department has restricted access to its halls, shutdown tours for children and stopped doing drive-by birthday parties.

“We’ve tightened it up a little bit, like quite a bit, in the department and that’s hard for the crews because they’re very social,” says Hollier, adding kids are a big interaction with firefighters. 

“Even going to a staging location for a birthday party we’re like a magnet, so the crews will have a hard time saying ‘no.’ We don’t want to do that, so we’re trying not to put them in that position right now.”

As COVID-19 restrictions are slowly being lifted, Kelowna firefighters are reminding the public to stay safe.

“We can’t anticipate anything, this is just a slow implementation to see what’s going to occur and might have to step back, but hopefully things will progressively get better and we can go back to normal living,” said captain Jason Stoodley. 

Hollier gave a big thank you to Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery, who supplied the firefighters in the regional district with hand sanitizer and hard surface cleaner since day one at no charge.

"They also have supported other front line emergency personnel. Fabulous company and hope everyone supports them."

You can also read how RCMP and paramedics are navigating the pandemic.

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