2020 was a chaotic year for everybody including the members of the Sandy Fire District. Sandy Fire made many changes due to Covid-19 to be able to work efficiently and safely while still helping citizens in the Sandy community.
While Sandy Fire had to adjust to working under Covid rules and tried to get a steady handle on the pandemic, one of the worst fire seasons in western Oregon made it even harder. Many individuals were affected by the Riverside Fire that started in early September, causing many families to evacuate to a safer area. One of the many families that was forced to evacuate was Lieutenant Don Bennett of Sandy Fire’s family.
“Being a firefighter, I had to move my family far enough away from the fire that they would be safe when I was at work. Or if I got called back, I would not have to worry about moving them again if needed. We also had to evacuate 16 horses, three cows, seven pigs, 50 chickens, and 12 dogs so it was chaotic for a while,” Bennett said.
Not only was Sandy Fire affected by the Riverside fire, but also the pandemic. This year they had to work more efficiently in cleaning and working. Sandy Fire worked twice as hard to keep the employees safe along with keeping up with Oregon Health Authority required regulations. To help protect the community, the staff increased sanitizing and decontamination of equipment to stop the spread of Coronavirus and protect the firefighters and the community.
“When we return from calls, additional measures are taken to decrease the risk of spreading Covid19 by sanitizing surfaces and equipment prior to responding on another call. The amount of time spent cleaning and decontamination around the station has greatly increased all in the hopes of stopping the spread of the Covid 19 virus,” paramedic Nick Tharp said.
Sandy Fire was challenged to maintain staffing while meeting the appropriate guidelines provided by the Oregon Health authority. They all wear N95 masks, gowns, face shields, and Tyvex suits no matter what the emergency is, protecting both responders and the public. Sandy Fire has done their best in helping out our community and making sure everyone is safe while working together.
“We also do not get to physically train together, which takes away from morale and community. These are not things that are unique to the Fire and EMS community, the world is dealing with that,” volunteer firefighter Aharon Curtis said.
2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, but Sandy Fire continues to evolve to meet the needs of the community. Whether it’s wearing masks, decontaminating apparatus and equipment, or keeping the community safe, Sandy Fire will be there when we need them.