Staff at six firehouses affected by positive cases and contact tracing; officials do not anticipate impacts to service
The Henrico County Division of Fire is managing an impact to its staffing as 20 firefighters currently are unable to work due to potential exposure to COVID-19.
Seven firefighters have tested positive for the coronavirus and are isolated at their homes. Another 13 are in quarantine after testing negative but being identified as at-risk for exposure through contact tracing. The firefighters will be in quarantine until early January.
Henrico firefighters receive rapid testing for COVID-19 through the county’s Employee Health Services.
Fire Chief Alec Oughton said the affected staff primarily serve on the B-shift at six of the 21 firehouses in the county. Firehouses typically are staffed by five to eight firefighters per 24-hour shift. More than 600 certified firefighters serve in the Division of Fire.
“We want the public to know that no organization, large or small, is beyond the impact of COVID-19,” Oughton said. “We want to encourage everyone in our community to practice good hygiene, wear masks and practice social distancing.
“Our members serve selflessly every day,” he said. “We are anxious to have them back with us.”
All firehouses have undergone deep cleaning and disinfection, including living quarters, common areas, apparatus and equipment, since the beginning of the pandemic. The division is coordinating its personnel resources to ensure that staffing is sufficient for firehouses to maintain operations. Should a firehouse need to be removed from service temporarily due to a shortage of available firefighters, service would be provided from another firehouse in accordance with comprehensive contingency plans developed by the division.
Oughton noted that the nature of the firefighters’ jobs requires them to work, eat and live in close quarters. It also requires them to face potential exposures from the public when responding to calls for service.
“Our members understand that we can’t do our jobs from a distance,” he said. “Providing the best service and care possible heightens our risk of exposure, but we are committed to serving and protecting our community.