OH Fire Department Splits Staff to Combat Coronavirus

March 20, 2020
Some of Worthington's 36 firefighters have moved to a now-closed community center as a way to protect the single-station department from being decimated by COVID-19.

Editor's note: Find Firehouse.com's complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic here.

Knowing that firefighters have to protect themselves to help others, Worthington officials worried about having their 36 full-time staff working together in its single fire station.

"We were hearing about these other stations being forced to shut down elsewhere. That would decimate our fire and EMS protection if we had to close our firehouse," said Mark Zambito, assistant fire chief.

So in a brainstorming session, he asked about the now-closed community recreation center.


With a large, now empty, parking lot, showers, a kitchen and makeshift bunk room, "everything we needed was there," he said.

Setting up the station this week, on Highland Avenue, less than a mile from its High Street station, became urgent.

"I looked at one of my captains and said, 'I need you to stock it in two days.'"

Capt. Chris Betts assembed beds and living quarters for three firefighters. A kitchen was stocked with supplies and food.

A craft/activity room now has three beds. Radios are kept on to replace speaker systems in the station.

A ladder truck and medic, parked outside, will respond when the main station is already dispatched.


The final act was to memorialize the achievement, Zambito said.

Using caution tape and bolt cutters, a brief, but serious ribbon-cutting took place Thursday.

"It started out as a joke, but firefighters tend to be superstitious," Zambito said, explaining that his staff has sacrificed much as it prepares for what could be a lengthy struggle to fend off COVID-19.

"They've not even blinked an eye about going out and taking runs."

Genoa Township, Grandview Heights and Whitehall are other departments working out of a single station.

Genoa Fire officials said their nine-person crews are taking other measures to protect themselves such as taking their temperatures, working out separately and trying to stay isolated.


©2020 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com

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