PATERSON, NJ - As workers in almost every industry have shifted to “remote working” models in attempts to stave off COVID-19, those in public safety, including firefighters, continue to go about their work. The impact, Kyle Hughes, President of FMBA Local 2, the union that represents Paterson’s rank-and-file firefighters, said, is being felt.
As of Tuesday, Hughes told TAPinto Paterson, at least four members of the Paterson Fire Department have tested positive for coronavirus, a number he expects to grow as more tests come back. Despite the best efforts to contain further spread, “this is just the beginning,” Hughes predicted, before adding an assurance that “we will get through this.”
To be sure, Paterson’s firefighters are practicing the tenets of social distancing, both on the job and off. “For us the firehouse is a second home, the men and women we serve with are our second families,” Hughes said. “It is difficult to have to keep our distance from each other, but if it means helping us stay healthy, and getting Paterson on the road to recovery, it’s a temporary inconvenience that we are going to comply with fully.”
Firefighters and EMTs are no strangers to exposure to harmful chemicals, smoke, and other dangerous substances, Hughes reminded, and are well-trained in how best to face them, as well as in the decontamination process to make sure they don’t bring the danger they face at calls back to the firehouse or their homes.
Throughout history, Hughes reminded, firefighters have always been on the front lines when it comes to protecting those they serve from dangerous situations. Whether it was a previous pandemic in 1918, the attacks on September 11, or something more local like the great fire that devastated Paterson in 1902 and more recent floods, “we always suit up and show up,” Hughes said.
Referring to coronavirus as an “unknown enemy”, Hughes shared his confidence that “it is one we will defeat,” by exercising the protocols that have been presented by public health officials as well as the Department.
“We are all working through an intense moment in history,” he said. “This time, maybe more than ever, we need the help of every resident.”
“Everyone can be a hero in this simply by staying home and saving calls to 911 for real emergencies.”
Know a story we should share with readers? Email editor Steve Lenox and tell him about it.