‘We love to help’: NorCal firefighters assist SoCal hospitals battling COVID-19

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With Southern California still at 0% intensive care unit availability, local firefighters are being asked to work alongside doctors and nurses in hospitals that are being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. 

“Every bed was full, even in the tents that were out there, every bed was full,” Lathrop Manteca Fire Chief Gene Neely said Saturday.

Neely just returned from a two-week deployment at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena. He and other firefighters and paramedics worked directly with COVID-19 patients, KTLA sister station KTXL in Sacramento reports. 

“We’re helping them clean beds, taking care of patients, making sure they’re on oxygen, and just providing that that level of care. It really was rewarding and thankful that I went,” Neely said.

Neely told KTXL he saw up close how severe the COVID-19 crisis is.

“Seeing all of the care and the great passion that the health care providers are putting into taking care of patients was just, it was very humbling,” Neely said.

Overworked hospital staffs are requesting help through the California Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System which is often used for the state’s massive wildfires.

“It’s important to have firefighter-paramedics because they can be that gap stop when something like this happens and you need all the extra resources,” Neely explained.

Two other firefighters were assigned to an Oxnard hospital earlier this week and another will head to Palmdale Sunday. 

“We love to help. That’s our calling you know,” Neely said.

While it’s a first for many firefighters and paramedics to work in a hospital setting, Neely said their training has prepared them to help however they can. 

He predicts it won’t be long before firefighters and paramedics will be helping with vaccinations too. 

“Our proudest moment is saving lives. We’ve always said that,” Neely said. “That’s our motto and so this is just another level for us to be able to help get that done.”

According to Lathrop Manteca Fire District, most of their firefighters have already been vaccinated but firefighters still do have to quarantine when they come back from a hospital assignment as a precaution. 

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