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'It’s been a challenge': Boise fire stations working hard to prevent spread of coronavirus

Firefighters are doing their best to keep each other healthy, and that includes social distancing while at the fire station.

BOISE, Idaho — Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, emergency workers have continued to serve their community.

The way first responders work, though, has changed.

For example, just like your family, the pandemic forced the Boise Fire family to make important changes.

“We are used to sitting down at the dinner table in the kitchen and now we’ve had to adjust to be able to do that six feet apart,” said Shawn Rayne, EMS division chief with the Boise Fire Department

Another big adjustment for the department is how they gear-up for responses.

“That’s been one of the changes, wearing the full personal protective equipment on every single call that we go on,” Rayne said.

That decision was made after firefighters saw a pattern in the calls they responded to.

“We’ve had a few instances where we were met in a driveway by a patient that was showing symptoms," Rayne said. "So we learned right away we had to start wearing that stuff on the way to the scene."

Boise Fire has been prepared for a big increase in calls, but so far, it hasn’t happened; Calls have actually decreased in recent weeks.

“In fact, we had kind of modeled things on an increase of 150% in call volume, Rayne said. "But what we saw was the opposite."

Firefighters are working 48-hour shifts, and during that time they are also hyper-aware of each other.

“They have to social distance in the stations too," Rayne said. "They are living there together for 48 hours wearing masks when they can’t appropriately social distance. It’s been a challenge.”

But, so far, so good.

“We’ve had 11 members tested so far, [and] nobody as tested positive, luckily,” Rayne said.

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To help prevent the spread of coronavirus at the stations, Boise Fire teams work hard to disinfect just about everything.

“Disinfection of all of our equipment, the stations, all of that kind of stuff daily. And also, after every call,” Rayne said.

The department is ready though if infections start popping up at their stations. They learned a lot from watching fire teams in Seattle.

“They lost a station worth of people that were out sick and so we put plans in place in early March to start addressing that,” Rayne said.

For now, Boise Fire plans on continuing their cleaning practices to try and stay ahead of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are covering a lot of that with the disinfection that we are doing. We do have some agreements with cleaning companies to come in and do a deep clean for us at the station if we did have someone that tested positive while they are on duty,” Rayne said.

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage and the latest COVID-19 case numbers, visit our coronavirus section here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus   

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