Abilene fire department hit hard with COVID-19, dozens in self-quarantine

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) More than 40 members of the Abilene fire department have tested positive for COVID-19, including the department’s fire chief.

“I’m doing okay. It just feels like I’ve got a mild case of the flu. Some body aches,” says Abilene fire chief, Cande Flores.

Chief Flores and dozens of others in the department are home in self quarantine.

“We’re seeing kind of a range in symptoms. All of them are pretty mild which we’re very grateful for. A lot of GI issues and a couple of guys dealing with a cough but nothing severe at this point,” says Flores.

The Abilene fire department employs more than 180 people and the chief says right now mandatory COVID-19 testing is not required.

“We’ve anticipated that this could happen. We do have continuity of operations plans and at this point now that tests are available, I think that’s why we’re seeing more positives but, to make it a mandatory test for everyone. I don’t think that’s prudent at this point,” says Flores.

The department’s deputy chief, Mike Burden says even with 28% of their workforce at home, all 12 of the department’s fire trucks are fully staffed.

“All of our personnel that work in either support services, the fire marshals office or in training, if they are negative tests they have been reassigned to emergency services,” says Burden.

According to the deputy chief, the more than 40 cases are spread across the entire department.

“We’re not just seeing one fire station light up. I wish there was some rhyme or reason to this pandemic and how it affecting us but, there’s really not we’ll see one or two at one station and zero at another,” says Burden.

Burden also says, precautions to slow down the spread of the virus within the department started in early March.

“Anytime that our personnel is in the interior of the fire station or they are in the fire truck making an emergency response, they have their mask on.”

A professional team was hired to disinfect every fire station in the department.

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