ATTLEBORO, Mass. — The Last Call Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing firefighter safety, is footing the bill for fire stations in Massachusetts to get a deep cleaning amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The foundation partnered with Redline First Responder Gear Cleaning and Inspecting to perform the cleanings. The company’s founder and president, Mike Matros, is a firefighter-paramedic in Sudbury, so he knows firsthand how firefighters are coping with the coronavirus.
“Guys are OK running into a burning building, but it’s a very different feeling when you might not know if you’re going to get your family sick,” Matros told Boston 25 News. “The guys are definitely a little nervous about it.”
Matros built and engineered the first-ever mobile extraction unit, a truck equipped with the necessary equipment to clean 30 sets of firefighter gear at a time.
But with the pandemic threatening the health and safety of first responders, Matros has adapted his business to focus on giving fire houses a deep cleaning.
“The agent we use for cleaning our gear is actually the same agent used to treat and kill coronavirus,” Matros said.
The cleaning agent, Decon7 (D7), can kill carcinogens and a host of other viruses, including COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Matros and his team used a fogger machine to spray the disinfectant on every surface inside Attleboro’s fire houses.
“We go in and out of every room, every bedroom, every bathroom, every crevasse of the fire house,” Matros said. “Then we wipe down the surfaces and clean all the areas afterwards.”
Matros said he’s scheduled cleanings with 38 fire departments as of Tuesday.
Richard MacKinnon, president of The Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, said firefighters are more nervous and cautious than normal, especially when responding to calls with the potential to be exposed to coronavirus.
“We have no problem responding to these calls, we just don’t want to bring it home to our families and make them sick,” MacKinnon told Boston 25 News.
As of Wednesday, 105 firefighters across Massachusetts have been diagnosed with coronavirus, a ten-percent increase from the day prior. 638 firefighters are also under quarantine.
Within the number of coronavirus cases in the state expected to surge in the coming weeks, MacKinnon said fire departments are transitioning their response to assume a risk of exposure at every call.
MacKinnon said firefighters have been using special disinfectants to clean their fire houses two or three times a day and will continue to so even if they undergo a deep cleaning.
“This is just an added protection that’s more than welcome in the state and we’re very grateful to The Last Call Foundation,” MacKinnon said.
The cleanings can cost thousands and dollars per fire house, but they’re coming at no cost to taxpayers.
Kathy Crosby-Bell, president of The Last Call Foundation, said she hopes to put to ease the minds of firefighters during these understandably tense times.
“They are going to be exposed, repeatedly. It’s part of the job. We all understand that. But we need to make a concerted effort to do what we can to decontaminate those stations because there are so many firefighters who have already come down with this, others who are already isolated and they’re all frightened about bringing this home to their families - rightfully so.”
The Last Call Foundation has a Boston Marathon team with 39 runners. With the race being postponed until September, Crosby-Bell said the runners will be collecting more donations. All of the money raised between March 15 and September 1 will be use to provide fire departments with grants for decontamination for fire houses, apparatus, ambulances and gear.
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