Prince Rupert Fire Rescue Department (PRFR) has been hit with COVID-19 leaving eight out of 20 firefighters in isolation due to positive test results or awaiting test results, the City of Prince Rupert announced in a press release, on Jan. 6.
Life safety and emergency services will not be compromised due to current procedures and systems in place, Jeff Beckwith, deputy fire chief, told The Northern View, adding that on Jan. 5 the detachment successfully attended and extinguished a house fire in the city.
“The continuation of service is done with a day shift of 4 staff and a night shift of 4 staff and is viable in the short term through overtime. We are very grateful to our remaining staff for picking up the slack during the shortage,” the city-issued release stated.
“We request that residents do their part to contribute to fire prevention, especially with respect to the safe use of space heaters and other appliances during this cold snap,” PRFR advised.
Veronika Stewart, communications manager for the City of Prince Rupert told The Northern View clarification was required pertaining to Jan 5, media reports published by news outlets not associated with The Northern View.
The 13 out of 20 firefighters “lost,” previously reported by some media, included both those who had a positive result and those who are still waiting to receive their result, Stewart said.
Prince Rupert Fire Rescue staff are managing, she stated, even though this is not a desirable position for the department.
“Although this is a dynamic situation, given BC’s recent announcement of shorter 5-day isolation periods for vaccinated persons, we anticipate overall staffing levels to increase in the coming days,” the media release stated. “Since yesterday alone, we have already had five staff return due to either a negative test result or completion of the isolation period.”
The city issued two points of note stating in extreme emergency scenarios release serious incidents where existing staff cannot safely meet fire service demand, “the city could call upon the Port Edward volunteer department of 13 well-trained firefighters in times of need. Should it be absolutely necessary, those nearing the end of their isolation period whose symptoms are diminishing may also be called in, with additional COVID measures in place to protect the public and existing staff from potential spread if that is required.”
Norman Galimski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View