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Duluth Fire Department keeping up with COVID protocols, maintaining healthy firefighters

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DULUTH, MN-- Multiple first responding units have been forced to make changes to their daily operations since the COVID pandemic began in March.

For the Duluth Fire Department, Chief Shawn Krizaj said they were well prepared for what was to come.

"Because of some of the others, SARS, some of the other things that didn't really turn out to be pandemics, as bad as this one per se," said Krizaj. "Previous chiefs set us up with a good supply of N-95 masks and hand sanitizer."

In the last nine-months, four fire department staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

Chief Krizaj credits the low number of infections to keeping all firefighters at their assigned fire halls, which helps with social distancing and contact tracing.

Adding at the beginning of the pandemic, he admits it was a challenge keeping up with safety guidelines as they were constantly changing.

"The recommendations from the CDC and Department of Health were changing daily if not multiple times a day. What was the best practice at 10 a.m. might not be the best at three in the afternoon," said Krizaj.

He adds they'll be treating anyone they come in contact with as if they could be infected, meaning they'll be wearing all necessary PPE.

"St. Louis County, when you call 9-1-1, they ask certain questions so that would prompt us what might be a COVID related as least symptoms," he said. "There's a heightened awareness to not just wear not just the mask but the face shield."

Adding many of those calls are when people are getting the fireplace up and running or having furnace problems.

Krizaj adds as the community has seen a rise in cases, the department has changed the mandate requiring all staff to wear an N-95 mask when in the building or on a call instead of a cloth or surgical mask.

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Emma Quinn

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