ALBEMARLE, N.C. — Local first responder agencies have stepped up after several Albemarle firefighters contracted COVID-19.
“It’s just a close knit family -- if one’s hurting or sick we take care of them and vice versa, they will take care of us,” Southside Volunteer Department Chief Jeff Craven told Channel 9.
Craven posted on Facebook earlier this month asking the community to pray for the Albemarle Fire Department.
Channel 9 learned initially that 10 of the department’s firefighters contracted COVID-19. On July 29, Chief T. Pierre Brewton said a total of four firefighters had to be hospitalized because of the virus, and that two of them had been released, with the other two still being treated.
All but five of the firefighters have returned to work, Brewton said, and other agencies continue to help with staffing needs.
(In the video below, anchor Genevieve Curtis was there as people asked for support and prayers.)
The community held a vigil for the firefighters last week.
“I really felt the call to pray,” resident Kristan Cardwell said at the vigil. “Members of the Albemarle community, the Albemarle Fire Department, including the chief.”
“We’re all close knit, we work together, most of us work other jobs with them as well,” Craven said earlier in the week.
Officials said the first positive case was reported on July 9 but that it was still unclear how the outbreak started and they would not speculate.
With more than a quarter of the city’s firefighters sidelined by COVID-19, Channel 9 asked the City of Albemarle and the fire chief if the response to emergencies would be affected. The city attorney said that other local agencies are stepping in to help cover shifts and shortages in staffing so response times “should not be impacted.”
Neighboring communities and the Office of the State Fire Marshal are helping out with staffing needs.
First responders were among the first to be offered the vaccine in North Carolina. Channel 9 asked if any of the sick firefighters were vaccinated against the virus, but the city has not yet provided specifics on vaccinations.
In an e-mail, the city manager said they appreciate the communities thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
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