Seven firefighters with Milledgeville Fire Rescue have tested positive for coronavirus COVID-19 and are now quarantined at their homes, The Union-Recorder has learned.
“The majority of them are on one particular shift,” said Milledgeville Fire Rescue Chief William Collier.
He said five of the firefighters work on "C" Shift, while the other two are assigned to the “A” Shift.
There have been no positive confirmed cases of firefighters coming down with the disease on either the “A” Shift or “B” Shift, Collier said.
Only two of the local firefighters are reported to be experiencing symptoms of the highly-contagious disease, according to Collier.
“The other five don’t have any symptoms at this time,” Collier said.
The fire chief said he received word last Friday about the first of his seven firefighters having tested positive for the disease.
“That particular firefighter was tested because he was running a slight temperature and had a stuffy nose and that type of thing,” Collier said. “So, he went ahead and got tested and later found out he was positive.”
Collier said the next day that another firefighter from that same shift was tested and the results, like the first one, came back positive.
Since then, three more firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19 from that same shift.
Of the seven firefighters who have tested positive, two of them include battalion chiefs.
“Most of them feel OK,” Collier said, noting that they had not experienced any symptoms of the disease at this point and that he was hopeful they would not become sick.
After 10 days of being quarantined, each of the firefighters will go back and undergo another COVID-19 test, Collier said.
“If they test negative after that period of time, then we can move towards bringing them back, obviously following all of the health guidelines and protocols,” Collier said.
Even though the department is down from the number of firefighters it normally has at any given time, Collier said the department is still able to function without any difficulty.
“What we decided to do was just reduce the daily number of people that are on-duty,” Collier said. “Normally, there is a minimum of 10 people to staff, but we reduced that number down a little bit.”
Collier said he also had reached out to a couple of other firefighters who typically work every day to fill in the gap, if need be.
“Right now, we’re able to cover everything from a staffing standpoint, and I’m thankful for that being the case,” Collier said. “My fingers are crossed that no one else becomes positive with COVID-19.”
Collier said Baldwin County Fire Rescue Chief Victor Young had reached out to him and indicated his department would be help the city fire department in anyway they could.
“I really appreciate Chief Young calling me and telling me that they basically had our backs,” Collier said. “That really means a lot to me.”
The fire chief said he had no way of knowing exactly how the firefighters who have tested positive for COVID-19 actually contracted it.
“It likely came from them answering a call where someone had it,” Collier said.
Both city fire stations currently are undergoing deep cleaning in hopes of ridding the chances of any other firefighter or staff member contracting the disease.