Auburn Fire Department Takes Extreme Measures to Stay Staffed Amid Coronavirus

Some Auburn firefighters are working 96-hour shifts during the coronavirus crisis so crews can take off 12 straight days

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First responders know every call they get during this coronavirus pandemic could be the one that exposes them to the coronavirus.

“They’re using the N95s, goggles, gloves; and any COVID patients, they’re using full Tyvek suits,” Auburn Fire Deputy Chief Glenn Johnson said.

But the Auburn Fire Department has tried to come up with even more creative ways to not only keep firefighters protected, but limit potential cross-contamination between shifts.

“It’s vital because we’re not a huge department and we can’t afford to lose any of our staff, so having anyone out sick really cripples the organization and to have multiple people or multiple groups out would really cripple us,” Johnson said.

Working with the union, the fire department started a schedule in mid-March where firefighters work four consecutive 24-hour shifts – that’s 96 hours straight.

“They work four days and have 12 days off and then it repeats," Johnson said.

Friday in Lowell, Massachusetts, free gas will be offered to medical staff and first responders.

Having nearly two weeks off allows time to identify and test someone who may show symptoms, without losing multiple firefighters for a quarantine period awaiting those test results.

“They have an employee screening form that they have to fill out 24 hours prior to coming on shift,” Johnson said, “and then once they come on shift they get their temperatures checked.”

Auburn firefighters have stopped working any side jobs they have, they stay in the truck or separated from other crews during mutual aid and, for calls inside a building, they first send in one person in personal protective equipment to identify the problem to limit exposure of the full crew. 

“They understand that this is to really protect them, protect their families," Johnson said, noting that this is a temporary solution.

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