BESSEMER, Ala. (WIAT) – The effects of COVID-19 are reaching first responders in Central Alabama again.
Bessemer Fire Chief Randall McFarland tells CBS 42 six firefighters have tested positive for COVID in the last week. He says all of the positive cases are at one station. He did not name the specific location.
“Hey, go back to lockdown. That keeps them going from station to station. And we can contain right there at that one station,” McFarland said.
According to McFarland, three of the six were fully vaccinated. He says even before this outbreak, they were already experiencing short staff.
“But we’re short already just man wise and now we’re short because we have people with COVID,” McFarland said.
This is an issue that has impacted first responders nationwide. Chief McFarland says they should be okay for the time being, but if outbreaks continue to put firefighters out of commission, then that poses a bigger issue.
“It becomes a safety issue if they are fatigued, or weary, and psychologically kind of out of it,” McFarland said.
“We have to be prepared for it all either way it goes,” Chief McFarland said.
And the shortage of first responders is felt in other organizations like the Rocky Ridge Fire District.
“There’s just a shortage in general right now of getting qualified paramedics on trucks,” Assistant Chief Michael Bartlett said.
Bartlett says they are following COVID protocols as well. He says the virus is also impacting other aspects of the job besides manpower.
“As far as our transport capabilities and getting them into the ER is getting more and more difficult because the hospitals are getting slammed again,” Bartlett said.
But through the trying times, both say responders are pushing through.
“They just keep chugging right along,” McFarland said.
Because they hope the shortage of responders comes to an end soon.
“If they have a servant’s heart and you’re wanting to get out here and help people, that’s a great way to do it,” Bartlett said.
Chief McFarland says they have around 100 on staff and they have 13 new firefighters in training. Bartlett says they have around 35 members with Rocky Ridge.