As of Wednesday night, EG was down to 8 non-COVID firefighters
During an emergency meeting Wednesday night, Fire Chief Bernie Patenaude told the Town Council the North Kingstown Fire Department would step in to staff Station 2, following the discovery late Tuesday night that a total of 20 EG firefighters had tested positive for COVID-19 since Friday.
The agreement with North Kingstown, which has already been put into effect, has four NK firefighters and an NK engine and rescue working out of Station 2 for the near-term. The arrangement works for North Kingstown as well, according to Patenaude. Turns out, the NKFD station on School Street – the station closest to the EG border – flooded a couple weeks ago and EGFD has been covering that part of North Kingstown since. Now, with NK trucks and firefighters at Station 2 on Frenchtown Road, they can cover both EG and the northern part of NK.
“No matter what, residents will be kept safe,” Patenaude told the council.
According to Town Manager Andrew Nota, the decision to work with North Kingstown came organically.
“As the day progressed, it became clear that North Kingstown was the best partner for us right now,” he said, noting already good working relationships between NK Town Manager Ralph Mollis and himself and NK Fire Chief Scott Kettelle and Patenaude.
“We couldn’t have found a better working team,” he said.
For now, the crisis will not cost the town in additional overtime, since the NK firefighters will just be covering their regular shifts. However, Patenaude conceded the situation could change if EG were to lose any additional firefighters or North Kingstown were to experience a rash of COVID cases. If that were to happen, he would tap off-duty firefighters from other communities who would cover EG shifts on an overtime basis.
“This is really a reflection of how well prepared our team is,” said Council President Mark Schwager. “I think it was amazing from when I got the early morning phone call to tonight it was all put together in a few hours.”
He and the other councilors thanked both the non-COVID firefighters who will be working a lot in coming days and expressed concern for those who are sick.
Councilor Caryn Corenthal asked if the firefighters would appreciate any food donations. Patenaude said food donations were always appreciated and that food could be dropped off at either station. If you would like to drop off something for the firefighters, you might want to check with them first. Call (401) 886-8686.
One EG police officer has also tested positive in recent days, but so far that’s been the extent of the hit at the EGPD.