NC town’s fire department shut down after COVID-19 outbreak

North Carolina news

ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WJZY) – The Town of Landis announced Thursday it will stop fire service in the town until Aug. 26.

It comes after three Landis firefighters tested positive for COVID-19, and six more were identified as close contacts and asked to quarantine. The Landis Fire Department consists of 21 members, and Public Safety Director Zachary Lechette said he doesn’t want to put the rest of the public at risk of exposure by continuing fire service.

“It was a very tough decision, but we thought it was the most appropriate one given the current condition,” said Lechette.

Lechette says he isn’t sure whether the three infected firefighters were vaccinated, but said they are recovering at home. Town leaders also don’t know where they contracted the virus but say through their contract tracing, they don’t believe anyone who interacted with the fire department recently should have reason for concern.

In the meantime, China Grove and Kannapolis Fire Departments will take over fire service in Landis town limits. Some locals have expressed concern over a possible delay in response times.

“It’ll take longer for them to get here,” said Landis Resident Donna Horton. “It may cost a life.”

Lechette says despite the temporary change, he doesn’t expect any impact on service times.

“Rowan County works well together. We operate under a collaborative mutual aid agreement. We are very close to China Grove. Their station is about a mile, mile and a half from us, so they should not see any type of delayed response when they call 911,” he said.

The outbreak has caused the department to take a second look at its safety protocols. Recently, Lechette says firefighters were given the choice of whether they wanted to wear masks during service calls.

“Since COVID has been a problem for a while, I’m not saying they should have been better prepared for it, but maybe some extra precautions could have been taken,” said Landis resident Anna Blume.

Lechette says the town is currently working on creating a more consistent, streamlined safety policy.

Though the fire and police departments in Landis operate under one roof, the Landis Police Department is still open for service.

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