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A Message from the Fire Chief

posted Mar 23, 2020, 1:57 PM by Rod Topel

I would like an opportunity to update you specifically to South Whatcom Fire Authority, their activities and their response during this COVID 19 pandemic.

First, the orders and requests from our Governor and our State Department of Health are critical to slowing the spread of the COVID 19 virus.  We echo their requests for you to take this pandemic seriously and to practice good physical distancing of a minimum of 6 feet, wash your hands frequently and routinely, and stay home as much as possible and definitely stay home if you are sick.  The events of the pandemic are stressing our County’s system, and we here at SWFA are having difficulty obtaining critical personal protective equipment for our personnel from our normal vendor channels and are relying on a unified response led by the County’s Unified Command to help us get the supplies we need to keep our first responders safe.

I want to ensure our citizens that we will make every effort to maintain our ability to respond to your requests for emergency services.  There has yet to occur any COVID related issues which decrease staffing levels or response ability here at SWFA.  I have instructed our dedicated staff of responders to put in place measures to maintain their wellness in the stations and on responses, as well as implored them to conduct themselves away from work as I asked you all earlier, limit their travel to only essential purposes, maintain physical distances, and practice good and routine hygiene.

Additionally, we have begun checking each responder for any early indication of illness with required temporal temperatures prior to them being allowed to stay within the building and reporting to shift.  Our decontamination practice within our facilities has increased frequencies, and we are having administrative staff work remotely at all possible opportunities.

Today, Monday, March 23, I also secured our facilities and restricted all public access with the exception of our legal requirements to be open for our public Fire Commissioner meetings.  We will still be here to answer questions and provide directions, but we are imposing the six-foot barrier and will assist people outside of the facility first, prior to access.  We request that if you need medical response that you please contact 9-1-1 for a response to your location.  We will still provide medical care to any and all who request and need. 

South Whatcom Fire Authority is just one component of our overall community response to COVID 19.  We will work with the County’s Unified Command response to support their efforts and continue to be here for all our citizens, and we ask you to do the same.  Be understanding that this emergency is now more than just a health care related emergency as it is reaching the foundational components that make our society function.  Please be respectful to all by not hoarding, and only purchase what is necessary for your family.  Be kind to others and respect their space, and be understanding that all our community is feeling anxiety to the situation and have compassion and empathy.  Understand and be patient with our governmental institutions and private entities that are working hard to make better outcomes as all resources are currently very limited.  Lastly, verify what you read or hear about the virus against credible health information as provided by credible institutions.  You may visit where you will find information from Centers of Disease Control, State Health Department and Whatcom County Health Department as well as COVID 19 related proclamations and updates.

Rod Topel, Fire Chief South Whatcom Fire Authority