Oklahoma City Fire Department hits level red in staffing; nearly 100 firefighters out because of COVID-19

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma City Fire Department hit level red this week.

In all, about 10 percent of firefighters are out because of the pandemic.

Level red means there are at least 25 firefighters in a shift who are in quarantine or 50 across all three shifts.

As of Thursday, there were 91 firefighters in quarantine and 23 positive cases.

“We’ll get through this. We understand this is a challenging time right now,” Battalion Chief Benny Fulkerson said.

There are changes in place to make sure firetrucks are fully staffed, but they want to avoid shutting down whole stations.

“We may have to situationally and strategically put a rig out of service, but we don’t want to put all of the rigs at any one fire station out of service. That would be an absolute last resort,” Fulkerson said. 

Right now, the department isn’t moving firefighters from one station to another. They may call in people who are off duty or have a nearby fire station help out on a call.

Reducing cross contact also means less interaction during shift change.

“Firefighting involves, for those who don’t know, it’s a family,” Fulkerson said. “That used to be a time when you talk, you have some fun, you talk about the things that went on the day before and you’re firefighters at that moment.”

This is the second time the department has hit level red. It happened during the summer as well.

Depending on staffing at stations, firefighters may not be able to take as much time off.

While precautions like wearing masks can be difficult when out in the field, the department says the goal is to keep everyone safe.

“To do what the firefighters are having to do out there, very physical activity and to still be cognizant, to make sure that they’re wearing a mask, is really a hard thing,” Fulkerson said.

Level red also means the department isn’t doing any community and educational events. They regularly sanitize facilities as well.

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