Shrewsbury Fire Department adapts to COVID-19 pandemic

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By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – As of April 17, the town of Shrewsbury had reported 105 positive cases of COVID-19. The Fire Department was directly affected, as a Shrewsbury firefighter tested positive for coronavirus. He has since returned to work having adhered to CDC guidelines.

Fire Chief Jim Vuona shared that the rest of the department, including himself, were tested and all results had come back negative. 

To accommodate the current situation, the department has made some necessary changes.

“We reassigned some personnel,” Vuona explained. “When we received our big grant to add personnel we had three firefighters over at Station 2….We reduced that down to two and we moved the third person over to Station 3 on Centech Boulevard.”

Station 2 is where the ambulance is housed, so this change was intended to reduce contact between the ambulance personnel and the firefighters and to bolster the staffing at Station 3 because of a mutual aid relationship with Westborough and Northborough.

Shrewsbury does not have its own ambulance. Their one ambulance is provided on a contract basis through Worcester EMS. As such, the town benefits from Northborough and Westborough’s ambulance capabilities when Shrewsbury’s ambulance is out on another call. 

They, in turn, benefit from assistance from Shrewsbury when there is a fire and Shrewsbury can respond more effectively with the additional person at Station 3 which is closer to those two communities.

“Honestly, it’s great working with the chiefs from Westborough and Northborough,” Vuona said. “We stay in touch all the time and we back each other up. I can’t say enough about the cooperation with those communities.”

Other changes include reducing personal contact at Headquarters by having the chief and deputy chief alternate weeks working from home. This mirrors what the town has been doing, having two administrative shifts.  

Vuona has also shifted his mechanic, who is also in charge of purchasing and ordering PPE and decontamination equipment, to the day shift exclusively.

“All the stations are disinfected at least twice a week and the trucks are decontaminated as needed,” he added.

When asked how their PPE supply is, Vuona said: “We are in good shape for now. We had some stockpiled that the town had put away for SARS and other pandemics…some of the equipment is older but still in good condition.”

“Overall we are in pretty good shape.” he reported. “We are doing all that the CDC advises. Every time the guys come in to work they have their temperature taken and they fill out a form to check for symptoms and at the end of their shift they do the same thing.”

Vuona urged all residents to continue following the official guidelines and acknowledged all the restaurants in town that have provided food for the department.