Nearly half of Prince Rupert's firefighters in isolation due to COVID-19, city says

65% of the crew at the Prince Rupert fire department tested positive for COVID-19 or were awaiting test results on Jan. 5, 2022. (Contributed by the City of Prince Rupert - image credit)
65% of the crew at the Prince Rupert fire department tested positive for COVID-19 or were awaiting test results on Jan. 5, 2022. (Contributed by the City of Prince Rupert - image credit)

More than half the firefighters at the Prince Rupert Fire Rescue Department were off work due to COVID-19 on Wednesday, though staff levels have since rebounded, said Prince Rupert's city manager in an update on Thursday.

The city's fire department was down to seven of its 20 staff at one point.

"We had two positive cases yesterday, eight more positive cases by the evening, and three more awaiting test results," Rob Buchan, city manager of Prince Rupert, said Wednesday. "They're all in isolation right now."

"That's a huge number for a fire department of our size, absolutely."

Buchan says the skeleton crew of seven firefighters Wednesday still responded to two fire calls and a serious medical distress call, far more calls for the day than in the average week.

'"Our staff are doing the job, we're holding the line.There was no visible evidence we have a staff shortage."

Five staff have since returned to duty due to either negative tests or the completion of their isolation period.

But the situation remains "dynamic and fluid," Buchan said Thursday. "The situation is changing rapidly and we're going in the right direction. I expect in a few days we'll be back to a full complement."

The city does have a backup plan, with volunteer firefighters from neighbouring Port Edward on standby.

Buchan said in a critical situation, it's possible that firefighters with COVID-19 could be asked to return to work.

"If we have a bigger emergency that we don't have enough staff, we can call out our members that are isolating but whose symptoms are diminishing."

Carolina de Ryk/CBC
Carolina de Ryk/CBC

Prince Rupert, in B.C.'s northwest coast, has a population of 12,000 people.

Its fire department responds to about 1,500 calls each year.

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