BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WV News) – Bridgeport’s first responders continue to serve their community at an uncertain time, relying on the workforce and skills that make up their staff.
Fire chief Phil Hart said that 27 people are fully employed by the fire department, nine of whom work shift.
“We have a rental plan that will go into effect on July 1st, but with COVID-19 (situation) we have turned it down a few months to see what tax revenue it has,” he said.
In addition to fighting fires, the department manages two ALS ambulances, one specific for COVID-19 cases or possible cases.
“We have 19 certified paramedics and eight emergency medical technicians. At every turn, we have at least four paramedics, “said Hart.
Having both an ambulance and firefighters under one roof offers a huge advantage for both the department and the communities it serves.
“Allows for faster response in the event of a medical emergency. There are no delays in having to go somewhere unless we are busy on another call. … It also gives us additional manpower for the fire side because our kids have double training on fire and EMS, “he said.
All potential new hires to Bridgeport must have a minimum of basic level one firefighter training as well as a minimum emergency medical technician certification before being tested for the department, Hart said.
Many departments nationwide, including West Virginia, do not require prior training in advance, he said.
“They will train you at home. We don’t do it in Bridgeport. We must have their training (completed). With the ambulance and fire rescue and our volume of calls, every time they arrive, once they are out of the orientation process and in the workplace, you don’t know what they could incur: a medical emergency, a car accident or a fire. We have to have them trained and ready to go, “said Hart.
With COVID-19 continuing to cause concern everywhere, additional precautions are always taken for maximum safety for staff and those in need of their help.
“Whenever we take a patient who has been positive for COVID-19, that our 911 center does an excellent job of screening those calls and letting us know if they have been exposed or tested positive for (we take), we take extra precautions , put on the protective equipment and at each call the patient, staff and (those in) ambulance wear protective masks and gloves, “he said.
Even if only one exposure is suspected, staff are decontaminated and the ambulance is sterilized after each run, he said.
“Our firefighters carried some positive cases diagnosed from the residences to the medical facility,” said Hart.
He said he is proud of his staff and the work they continue to do in these uncertain times.
“We have a very, very firm policy, according to which my officers ensure that every shift respects and follows them: (decontamination) and taking extra precautions to be sure. We want to protect our staff and the citizens we serve, but we also want to protect our families when we get home, “said Hart.
Bridgeport police chief John Walker said his department was lucky during the pandemic because his strength remained healthy and the department has full staff.
“They actually used very little of their accumulated (off) time. Most of these guys made reports for work and didn’t use the time. We kept the crew complete and were lucky enough. We are hiring a few now with increased responsibilities in the hospital, “he said.
Walker said the department is authorized to hire two officers, which will give him the opportunity to have officers at the United Hospital Center at any time.
There is funding for another officer, he added, which the department will test later.
Once the two additional officers are on board, the department will have 34 employees.
Right now, Walker said, “it’s kind of a struggle to recruit,” and it’s just the beginning of what might appear in the future, particularly with the recent events and events going on in the country.
“Once we have hired the latter two, we will begin the recruitment process,” he said.
Walker praised the work done by all those officers during the pandemic and their continued service to the community.