I recently interviewed the Battalion Chief Scott Kasten of the Oak Creek Fire Department and Dan Rezner, my father, who is also on the department, about the experiences of being on the front lines while staying conscious of COVID-19.
One thing that has remained consistent throughout my articles has been the idea of “hidden” or underappreciated heroes during the pandemic. This is no different, as our country rightfully is giving immense respect towards the frontline workers in the hospitals, other frontline workers like firefighters and police officers tend to be forgotten.
While nurses and doctors in hospitals are dealing with COVID-19 patients with potentially fatal conditions, firefighters too are dealing with COVID-19 on almost a daily basis.
“We pretty much assume that any house we go in has a COVID positive person in it. That and staying strict with masks and distancing have become a new normal.” said Firefighter Rezner.
He also noted how extremely important it was that the entire department is handling these protocols professionally and consistently. The fact that firefighters are going into other homes and businesses after getting called to others, possibly even right before, is why their position is so difficult. These firefighters are not only just encountering a lot of people they normally do not, the people they are interacting with are likely a wide range of both positive and negative as far as the virus.
“It is an extremely important situation we are in, it is important to think for others at all times.” said Rezner of the situation.
It is important to consider all in times like this.
“We are really pushing full transparency and responsibility,” said Kasten. “Following protocols on the job is super important, but it’s also important to be responsible outside of work too.”
It has been fascinating following the progression of how the fire department has handled the pandemic, along with the rest of the world. While obviously everyone has been affected by this pandemic, it is bittersweet seeing the various industries and organizations of our society adapt and adjust themselves to prosper, or at least survive all of this.
With distribution of the vaccine just beginning, the efforts and importance of the firefighters has not been forgotten. While doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are in group 1A, the first group to receive the vaccine, firefighters, police, at-risk people and other occupations that involve caring for/watching people are in group 1B.
“It’s good to see the vaccine finally being moved. Saving lives and returning to normalcy, hopefully, will be a smooth and successful transition” said Kasten.