CHICAGO — Concerns over COVID-19 are growing with the city’s fire department as a growing number of first responders become infected with the virus.
The Chicago Fire Department has added four ambulances that will specifically handle COVID-19 cases. There are four confirmed cases now within the department and a spokesperson tells me pretty soon they will stop counting.
Engine 42, in the heart of the city at Illinois Street and Dearborn Avenue, is one of the busiest fire houses in Chicago.
Local 2 Union representatives say that Chicago firefighters and paramedics are not getting enough guidance from top brass at the department, which is causing confusion within the chain of command.
“If things are laid out, they’re a lot more confident in how to do things,” Local 2 Union President Jim Tracy, said. “But when you’re supposed to ad-lib every run that’s out there, it doesn’t work that way.”
A spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department says there are department-wide directives, everything from instructions about the protective clothing to protocol put in place to answer calls.
“We’re taking it upon ourselves and there’s chiefs that are saying do it this way in this battalion and do it a different way in a different battalion,” Tracy said.
The union said its members cannot contain this virus alone and are asking for the public’s help.
“If there is a need for EMS, an absolute need for you to call an ambulance, and you have flu like symptoms, we’re asking the public to please notify that dispatcher,” Local 2 Joint Health and Safety Committee member, Pat Quane, said. “We’re here when you need us but we want to make sure we protect the public as well as ourselves.”
Every firefighter or paramedic who feels sick, is required to stay home.
“The more people that we have laid up, the thinner we’re gonna get, the harder it’s gonna be to serve the public,” Tracy said.
The wife of a chief who tested positive for COVID-19 is also on the fire department. Sources said while her husband was under home quarantine, she continued to come to work. The fire department has not confirmed that information.