BLACKSTONE, Va. (WRIC) — The Blackstone Volunteer Fire Chief announced in a release that his department is currently dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.
Fire chief Dion Tomer said due to the recent winter storms, many members spent several days and overnights in the station to respond quickly to service calls. Now, 8 out of its 50 members have tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Our station is not equipped with sleeping quarters so many members used couches, cots, and air mattresses throughout the living quarters to sleep,” said Tomer. “Sadly, we are finding out that we have members testing positive for COVID-19.”
Currently, only 21 tests have been given but the department expects more to be given in the coming days.
In a Facebook post, the department admitted that not all members were wearing a mask at all times inside the station.
“While some may place prejudice against our lack of mask-wearing, I ensure you, when it comes to ensuring your safety on our responses to your emergency, we used every precaution during this Pandemic,” the department’s post said.
The department prepared food for public servants during the recent power outage, but said during their meal deliveries their exposure time was limited. The CDC defines an exposure as being within 6-feet of someone for 15 minutes or longer.
BVFD said it is “undergoing decontamination” and also adjusting protocols to ensure that all members wear N95 masks instead of surgical masks to any emergencies.
The department does not believe this outbreak will have a direct impact on service calls; however, other local stations including Fort Pickett Fire and Rescue, Crewe Volunteer Fire, and Burkeville Fire Department are on standby.
“Once again, we are heartbroken concerning the events that have unfolded and our only desire was to ensure the safety and comfort of others during this storm,” Tomer said. “We certainly wish the best of health and safety to each and everyone.”