More than 50 Tuscaloosa firefighters off work for COVID-related reasons

50+ Tuscaloosa firefigters off job due to COVID-19

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue saw more than 50 firefighters go off the job for either testing positive from coronavirus or because of a possible exposure.

Now the department hopes a change in strategy will result in fewer firefighters missing work.

“We had one chain in particular that started at one station with one person spread rapidly. And in some cases took out the entire crew from one shift,” according to Chris Williamson, a Deputy Chief with Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue.

Williamson described one of the ways coronavirus has hurt Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue in recent days.

Tuesday, 53 firefighters were off the job because they either tested positive for coronavirus or had to go into mandatory quarantine because of a possible exposure to the virus. Possibly up to 60 have been off the job for more than a week for the same reason.

“We were experiencing a chain of infection from our employees transmitting it to each other because of the nature of the work so we were having trouble getting ahead of it,” Williamson continued.

They’ve tried to make up for that loss in manpower by allowing more firefighters to fill those shifts through overtime. Williamson says firefighters are more susceptible to spreading COVID because they come into contact with people who have it on medical calls and because of time they may spend around each other in fire stations or fire trucks.

More than a week ago the department extended the amount of time someone had to quarantine because of a possible exposure to coronavirus to 14 days.

“My hope is that by increasing the amount of time we put people off and the number of people we’re putting off we’re going to get ahead of this and get control of this,” Williamson added.

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