OAKLAND PARK, Fla. – Oakland Park Fire Station 20 was recently closed for a couple of days as firefighters were forced to go home to fight COVID-19, and the number of cases at the station has only increased.
The city says this all started with a call that all three city fire stations responded to.
Ten firefighters who responded to that call tested positive for the virus.
Another 18 eventually tested positive, and ultimately the virus hit half of the department.
Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue has been helping hold down the fort at Fire House 20 for a week now.
“I took a test last Thursday, and this Monday I got my results that I am still positive,” Oakland Park firefighter Michael Espada said
Espada first tested positive on July 20.
He normally works out of Station 20, which was shut down for at least two days last week because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“It was a surge on one of our shifts, is what happened, and Station 20 was one of the stations we felt we could provide dual coverage with if we had to take that out of service,” Oakland Park Fire Rescue Chief Steve Krivjanik said last week.
At the time, 19 firefighters -- a third of his 56-member staff -- were out with the virus.
A city spokesperson said 28 staffers -- half the department – have now tested positive.
At least two staffers had to be hospitalized.
“I’m hoping our city is becoming more proactive, instead of reactive, and we’re heading in the right direction to try to get ahead of this virus,” Espada said.
The city’s two other fire houses — 9 and 87 — have remained open.
A city official said a bio-hazard company was sent to clean all three stations.
An infection control officer with the city has also been in contact with those sick firefighters.
“I just hope all my brothers and sisters get well out there soon, and we’re all able to return to work,” Espada said.
Wednesday afternoon, Local 10 News learned two firefighters who caught the virus have tested negative and are back to work.
At least two more could be back on the job as early as this week.
Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue officials said two of their personnel and one person from Oakland Park Fire Rescue are running the rescue unit and the ambulance out of Station 20 for the time being.
Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue says it’s been asked to stay on helping for another week.