Fire District 1 Goes On Lockdown After Firefighter Gets ‘Preliminary Positive’ Covid Test Result

All four fire houses which comprise Fire District 1 are on lockdown at least until October 12, due to a firefighter in one house having a “preliminary positive” coronavirus test result, with an unknown number of other firefighters potentially exposed.

The lockdown was ordered late in the evening of October 5 by Chris Ryan, Deputy Chief of the Middlebush Fire Company and the fire district’s infection control officer.

The fire houses that comprise Fire District 1 have about 140 volunteer members, according to the district’s web site.

Under the lockdown, firefighters will only report to their firehouses for calls. They will have to leave the firehouse when they return from a call.

Firefighters who have been in contact with the infected firefighter can quarantine for 14 days, and will receive credit for any calls during that time, according to Ryan’s letter.

Ryan notified officials in the other three district fire houses – Elizabeth Avenue Fire Company, Millstone Valley Fire Company, and Somerset Fire and Rescue Company No. 1 – in a 10:15 p.m. email.

“As of today the District has experienced an exposure issue to a member of service that has tested preliminary positive to COVID,” Ryan wrote. “Throughout the evening I have conducted contact tracing and have identified a large number of active members from one of our houses that have been exposed, and some members of other houses.”

Ryan listed five steps being taken by the district to contain any outbreak:

  1. “Every house in the District is to go on lockdown through Monday AM. This lockdown requires all members to only be at the firehouses for calls and leave at the completion of the calls. While in the building or on calls all members are to be wearing N95 masks. There is no exception to this rule. Since we have the N95 with valves all members need to wear them to ensure safety.
  2. “We will be on District response 24/7 through Monday. As a result of the exposure several members may choose not to respond and District wide response will ensure proper coverage. 
  3. “Those members who have been deemed to have been in direct contact with the infected member of service will be contacted by the Chief of their house and advised they must get a COVID test. These members may also choose to stay quarantined away from their firehouse for up to 14 days. If they so choose they will be given credit for all calls that occur while under quarantine. Please let your Chief know if you are staying home. 
  4. “Those members that have made secondary contact, those members that have been in contact with someone who had direct contact with the infected member but did not directly make contact, will also be contacted by their Chief and advised to monitor their systems. They too can get COVID test if needed.
  5. “A professional cleaning company will be utilized for the affected firehouses. This exposure also is affecting two in district classes where the instructors have been notified.”

Ryan writes that firefighters can get free tests where they choose, but if their test comes back positive, “you must contact your Chief who will contact me.”

“These actions are being taken for all your safety and based on the test results will determine how long this will last,” Ryan wrote. “All members are to monitor for symptoms and advised if not feeling well. As always if you are not feeling well, stay home.”

There was no indication in the email of which firefighter received the “preliminary positive” test result, or of which fire houses are affected. A person with knowledge of teh incident said that the exposure occurred when several members of one house traveled to Wisconsin on official business.

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