PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A potential coronavirus exposure shut down the City of Pittsburgh’s Fire Training Academy Wednesday and landed three dozen people in quarantine. Fire leaders made the decision after an instructor started showing symptoms.
Firefighter president Ralph Sicuro tells KDKA’s Meghan Schiller that 36 people are now in quarantine after someone “reported symptoms at end of shift last night.” He said until test results for this person come back, the quarantine is in place for all 36 people.
“We are very happy that the system we have put in place, that our members immediately contact our task force that jump on it right away, said Sicuro, president of the International Association of Firefighters Pittsburgh Local 1.
#BREAKING: Ralph Sicuro, president of the Pgh Fire Fighters Local No. 1, says the decision to quarantine 36 from the fire academy + the other 59 people quarantined for a “variety of incidences” brings the current total to 95, or “15% of the fire manpower in the city.” @KDKA pic.twitter.com/G2aMAjjnPg
— MEGHAN SCHILLER (@MeghanKDKA) July 15, 2020
He says the decision to quarantine 36 people from the fire academy and another 59 people quarantined for a “variety of incidences” brings the current total to 95 people in quarantine. That’s about “15 percent of the fire manpower in the city,” according to Sicuro.
He said they are two weeks into a 32-week course at the academy and will have to pivot to a study program from home if the person’s test comes back positive.
“We have one source generally that needs to be tested to rule everybody else out, but we can’t get the testing done quickly and we can’t get the results back quickly,” said Sicuro.
Pittsburgh Public Safety says none of the 24 recruits are showing symptoms. Sicuro said he credits the health screenings, mask wearing and daily cleanings at every facility, but says the Pittsburgh Fire Bureau needs test results faster.
“It becomes a strain and if we continue to grow at this rate, we’re going to have a problem here soon,” said Sicuro.
Pittsburgh Public Safety released a statement saying:
“Public Safety decided yesterday to temporarily close the Fire Academy and have recruits and instructors self-quarantine.
“To be clear, no one tested positive for Coronavirus. This decision was made out of an abundance of caution after an instructor began to exhibit symptoms. We are awaiting test results for the instructor. None of the 24 recruits are showing symptoms.
“Fire officials created and followed a thorough Coronavirus plan for the academy. All personnel were subject to health screens before entry to the facility, social distancing and mask use was mandatory, and hand sanitizer was used throughout the day, in addition to numerous other safety measures. Plus, the entire facility was thoroughly cleaned daily.
“As Public Safety First Responders, we understand that it is impossible to entirely eliminate risk from our jobs or training. But we are confident in the steps we have taken to minimize risk. We will work with City Medical Director Dr. Ronald Roth to resume training as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.”
More information on the Coronavirus pandemic:
- CDC Coronavirus Information
- CDC Global Map of Confirmed COVID-19 Cases
- Pennsylvania Department of Health Information
- Allegheny County Health Department Information
Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.