SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KRON) – “The life in the fire service has changed a lot but everyone is adapting and understanding the big picture of keeping yourself healthy, keeping each other healthy and keeping your family healthy,” Deputy Chief Scott Westrope said. 

Santa Rosa is one of the first cities in the state to have a pandemic response unit up and running within their fire department.

The unit will respond to coronavirus patients or people who are experiencing symptoms.

The units goal is to minimize the potential spread of the virus within the department and throughout the community.

“It was designed primarily to find a better way to respond to pandemic or suspected pandemic patients — anybody with flu like symptoms, anybody with cold, cough type symptoms, that are confirmed or not of having COVID, in order to protect our personnel better and in turn what that does is protect the community better because we are keeping our workforce healthy,” Westrope said. 

It’s one of the first in the state and it’s goal is to help minimize the spread of the virus throughout the community and within the department.

So far, just one Santa Rosa Fire Department employee has tested positive for the coronavirus. Officials say that the employee contracted the virus while traveling and has not yet returned to work but is doing very well.

“We’ve been very fortunate with all the measures we’ve put into place and following the CDC and state and county guidelines we’ve been very fortunate in keeping our employees healthy,” Westrope said. 

The pandemic response unit responds to calls alongside other fire crews, the vehicle is equipped with specialized personal protective equipment and advanced life support gear.

It is staffed by one paramedic and one EMT and available all day, every day.

“They can go into a home or a facility that has a suspected or a COVID-19 patient and be completely encapsulated so that’s sort of the big difference is that we don’t have the ability to do that on every piece of equipment but we have the ability for this crew to have that equipment,” Westrope said. 

Santa Rosa Fire Department officials say all employees’ temperatures are taken when they start work and the stations are cleaned three times a day, and trucks and equipment are cleaned whenever they return from a call.

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