FARRELL — Five city firefighters, including Chief Mike Renner, are in quarantine because of possible exposure to COVID-19, but the chief said the action will not affect services.
Renner confirmed Thursday that one of Farrell’s firefighters tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday. The firefighter’s most recent shift was Monday, when he was in contact that day with four other firefighters, including the chief.
Even while in quarantine, Renner said his primary concern was making sure city residents know that services won’t be affected.
“The citizens and residents of the city of Farrell should not be concerned with public safety with the fire department or any other city entity,” Renner said. “We have plans in place to cover services. We’re working very closely with neighboring cities. There will be no lapse of services from the city in any way, shape or form.”
Farrell’s city building on Roemer Boulevard closed to the public in March and operated with very limited staff in the building and many employees working from home. The building is still closed to visitors, and anyone, including employees, who enter the building must have their temperature taken and wear a mask inside.
“This has still happened to us even though we’ve been very diligent about COVID,” Renner said. “We still had someone test positive.”
Renner said the city has enacted an even-more-rigorous sanitation policy.
“The whole building will be disinfected on a daily basis, meaning we will go through all the buildings and spray disinfectant through a mist,” Renner said. “We’ll be wiping down all hard surfaces, door handles, counter tops and bathroom facilities frequently.”
He also said that all employees are still required to wear masks when they’re not able to practice social distancing.
“That goes for police officers and administrative staff as well as public works employees,” Renner said. “Hopefully we can nip this in the bud and nobody else will be affected.”
Right now, Renner said he has only 13 firefighters, who work part-time, to cover shifts.
“It’s affecting us a lot because not everyone is going to be able to pick up extra shifts,” Renner said.
The situation has also affected Sharon Fire Department, which shares firefighters with Farrell.
The part-time Farrell firefighter who tested positive also works part-time for the Sharon Fire Department. He last worked in Sharon July 20, Sharon Fire Chief Bob Fiscus said.
Although no additional Sharon firefighters have been exposed, four firefighters who also work at the Farrell Fire Department have been placed in a precautionary quarantine for 72 hours, Fiscus said.
In addition, the automatic mutual aid from the Farrell Fire Department to fire calls has been suspended for 72 hours.
“Right now it’s manageable,” Fiscus said. “We don’t want it to get to a point where it’s not manageable.”
Both Fiscus and Renner said the departments are working together to ensure a continuity of emergency services.
“Guys have been wonderful and everyone has stepped up,” Renner said. “Chief Fiscus offered guys to cover if needed, which would be a great help.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the two chiefs have been discussing and formulating a plan for an outbreak in the fire departments.
“Our game plan is going to be put into effect,” Renner said.
Renner said the firefighter, who is now very sick, has no idea how he contracted COVID-19.
“The Department of Health is doing a trace analysis of who he’s been in contact with to see how he contracted it and who else he might have affected,” Renner said.
Renner said he cannot stress enough the importance of face coverings, social distancing and proper hygiene.
“Even when you’re very diligent with this, you can still slip through the cracks,” Renner said. “This is real and not going away anytime soon. The more people don’t believe in it, the worse it’s going to get and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
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