COVID-19 changes the way first responders prepare for busy holiday weekend


SPARTANBURG CO., S.C. (WSPA) – Upstate first responders told 7 News they’re expecting a busy holiday weekend and are having to make adjustments because of the Coronavirus. But those emergency crews want the public to know that they’re not letting the virus affect their ability to serve and protect you.

“July 4th is, historically, a holiday that is very busy for us,” Nicholas Fortner, with North Spartanburg Fire Department, said.

Firefighters in both Spartanburg and Cherokee counties said they expect an increase in calls this weekend.

“From a personal standpoint, I love the wonderful weather we’re going to have this weekend; but from a fire chief’s standpoint, I hate the weather we’re going to have. I wish it would rain all weekend,” Gaffney Fire Chief Jamie Caggiano said.

The kinds of calls these crews usually respond to over the holiday weekend are for injuries and accidental fires caused by fireworks.

“We would hate for somebody to lose a home or lose property or burn a field,” Chief Caggiano said.

But responding to calls this year will be a little different from years past as crews now face an extra obstacle called the Coronavirus.

“We want to provide the service the community expects and the community deserves, but we also want to make sure we keep our guys safe so that the call today doesn’t hamper us from running the call tomorrow,” Caggiano said.

And it’s not just firefighters who face that obstacle.

“I’ve got six deputies who can’t work right now because they’re waiting on their test results,” Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright said. “I understand that we’re not any more special than anybody else, but we have a service we must give people–not ‘need to’ but ‘must.'”

That’s why first responders are taking extra steps to try and prevent the spread, and to make sure they can be there for you when you need them.

“We’ve reduced the number of medical calls that we’re running to, and part of that was to protect our ability to provide fire service to Spartanburg County,” Fortner said.

“We’ve started taking all of our guys’ temperatures every day,” Caggiano added. “We’ve been really diligent about spraying our trucks down. The guys–as soon as they come back–they take their clothes off, and everything they had with them, and wash those. They go take a shower and get ready for the next call.”

Right now, emergency officials said they have plenty of personal protective equipment to keep their teams–and you–safe.

“Our guys have N-965 masks, they have gowns, they have shields. We always wear gloves,” Chief Caggiano said.

“Don’t worry about police response,” Sheriff Wright said. “We’re coming to help you, no matter what.”

But they have a message to those with plans for the holiday weekend.

“Be cognizant of the events that are going on today and remember that social distancing is a big part of what’s going to help us get past the COVID-19 experience,” Fortner said.

“If you’re around folks, if you can put a mask on, please do. Just social distance, wash your hands, and no licking doorknobs,” Sheriff Wright said.

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