OAKLAND PARK, Fla. – A firefighter at Station 20 in Oakland Park is concerned that he and his fellow first responders are getting sick and wants to know what is being done about it.
Asked if he is concerned about retaliation or ramifications for speaking out to the media, firefighter Michael Espada had this to say.
“No, I’m more worried about the brothers and sisters I work with, and the citizens that I, maybe, infected,” he said.
Espada has been with the Oakland Park Fire Department for 17 years, normally working out of Station 20.
He told Local 10 News' Layron Livingston that he went home on July 16 with a fever, aches and a cough. A few days later, he tested positive for COVID-19.
He wasn't the only one.
Because in a surge in cases across one shift, 19 department staffers are home with COVID-19. That’s a big chunk of the 56 employees who work out of the city’s three firehouses.
Stations 9 and 87 are still open.
"This would be the second consecutive day that that station has been closed due to a lack of personnel," Espada said Monday of Station 20. "To the best of my knowledge, we are still cleaning our own stations and obviously this has not been a sufficient practice because too many members have fallen sick."
Chief Steve Krivjanik told Local 10 that his stations are sanitized at least once a week, and unites are taking out of service for disinfecting after every COVID-19 call.
“To the best of my knowledge, we are still cleaning our own stations and obviously that has not been a sufficient practice because too many members have fallen sick,” said Krivjanik. “I think that we have done a yeoman’s job on the cleaning, the providing of PPE, the sanitizing.”
As for the stick staffers, Krivjanik said, “We are doing everything we can for them to get them home as soon as possible, and to be better.
Espada said he wants to see “taking other measures and trying to clean that station, so when we do go back, it’s not infected and we’re not taking this and spreading it back out to the community. I think the community has a right to know that we’re sick, and we may be bringing it to them.”
Espada said his wife, a nurse manager at a South Florida hospital, is also positive for COVID-19, along with his daughter.
Local 10 News also learned that two Oakland Park Fire staffers, including a captain, are in the hospital.
Krivjanik said he checks in with everyone every couple of days and wishes them a speedy recovery.
As for concerns about a delay in response time due to sick first responders, Krivjanik said there are five mutual aid agreements in place with surrounding departments, and “at no time has there been a negative to any of the response capabilities of this department.”