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10 White River Township firefighters self-quarantine after responding to sick person

10 White River Township firefighters self-quarantine after responding to sick person

GREENWOOD, Ind. (WISH) — Ten White River Township firefighters have self-quarantined after responding to a sick person Saturday afternoon.

White River Township Fire Department Chief Jeremy Pell said firefighters were called to a home on Olive Branch Road in White River Township just before 2 p.m. for a 60-year-old man experiencing respiratory distress.

The man passed away at the scene after going into full cardiac arrest. After responding officers learned the man had previously been experiencing flu-like symptoms, they called their battalion chief, who then notified Pell.

The firefighters took quick steps to decontaminate their equipment and trucks, Pell said. They showered and filed paperwork documenting the incident.

Based on advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the firefighters have self-quarantined while they await test results from a sample taken from the deceased man to determine if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19.

Pell said local and state health officials were notified of the incident and a coroner obtained a sample from the man. It is unclear at this time if the test has been conducted.

In the meantime, Pell said two firefighters have self-quarantined at their homes and the other eight are self-quarantined at the department’s former fire station in Greenwood. Pell said they are lucky they have the facility available.

“We are incredibly blessed given the challenging circumstances,” Pell said.

In less than 24-hours, with help from local businesses and volunteers, the station was able to get the furniture and appliances needed to house the firefighters until they get the test results from the patient.

“We don’t necessarily know that it is 14 days yet because we are working on getting these results.”

Pell said the department’s primary concern is to serve the people in their community. He said they have a backup staffing plan, but the situation is problematic.

“It’s absolutely going to limit us,” said Pell. “We need to get a definitive test on the patient in order to move forward.”

WRTFD has 70 full-time firefighters and 35 who work part-time. Pell said the temporary elimination of the 10 firefighters cuts one shift in half.

“We will still respond the way we do, we will still put on protective equipment and we will still serve the community,” said Pell.