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Nearly 35% of Five Cities Fire Authority firefighters isolated, quarantined as of Sunday

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Posted at 3:32 PM, Dec 14, 2020

Firefighters among multiple fire stations across San Luis Obispo County are infected with covid-19 or away from work on quarantine orders.

Local fire chiefs are asking the public to be extra safe with the motto "HELP US HELP YOU."

As of Sunday, nearly 35 percent of the first responders within the Five Cities Fire Authority were either isolated with covid-19 or quarantined.

“I am pleased to have several of our staff members back at work today, and look for the others to be healthy and ready to help you. Losing 35 percent of our firefighting capability is significant," said Five Cities Fire Authority Fire Chief Steve Lieberman.

Officials are concerned because fewer firefighters are able to respond to emergency calls.

"It's an eerie reminder that we are there to help people that are sick, but we need to maintain the capability to respond to fires and vehicle accidents and hazardous material situations," Chief Lieberman said.

Chief Lieberman says the agency is changing response protocols in some cases. For example, if they are called to a skilled nursing facility to care for a covid-19 patient, only one firefighter will go into the facility if necessary to limit exposure.

In the spring, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department saw an outbreak.

According to Captain Daniel Bertucelli, at one point there were 20 positive cases and 40 employees in quarantine.

While there is only one person currently out recovering, there will be stronger mask enforcement for the department.

"All personnel is wearing masks both in fire stations and engines so there's not going to be a time in a 24 hour period where someone could infect another person because they will be constantly wearing masks," Captain Bertucelli said. "Before, it was advised and we all were doing it, but it is now gone into policy."

To learn more about minimizing the spread of covid-19 visit readyslo.org.