With coronavirus, close quarters not good for firefighters

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Lexington Fire Department

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Firefighters are known for their close relationships and their firehouses are literally small communities.

But that’s had a negative impact in one way during the coranavirus as eight Lexington firefighters tested positive for the disease.

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Four of those have recovered and returned to work the Lexington Fire Department said Friday. Another 40 have been quarantined because they might have been exposed to one of those who tested positive, the department said.

“The firefighters who have tested positive have not required hospitalization, and we expect the four firefighters who remain in isolation to fully recover, as well,” said Battalion Chief Jordan Saas, a spokesman for the department, told the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper.

Eighteen of the 40 firefighters are still in quarantine while 22 are back working on ambulances and fire trucks, the department said.

Saas told WTVQ the department started taking precautions when the disease first surfaced in the state in early March to try to stay ahead of the problem. Those steps included taking firefighters’ temperature twice a day, cleaning the stations twice a day, and social distancing in the stations.

But given the nature of firehouses, that is part of the problem.

“Due to the familial nature of the firehouse, which includes close quarters, we have quarantined entire fire crews out of an abundance of caution,” Saas said, noting firefighters now eat meals in shifts so they can be farther apart. “ Fortunately, our staffing levels have allowed us to err on the side of caution without having to close any stations.”

The first firefighter tested positive late last month according to an announcement March 27 by Lexington Fire Chief Kristin Chilton. Eight firefighters were quarantined at that time.

No Lexington police officers have tested positive.