ALBEMARLE — As of Monday, the Albemarle Fire Department had returned some staff to shifts, but the Office of the State Fire Marshal, as well as the cities of Kannapolis and Concord, will continue to cover much of the staffing at Albemarle’s three stations after a COVID-19 outbreak.
The AFD held a joint press conference July 21 with the City of Albemarle, the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Stanly County Health Department “to provide an update and to reassure the public that fire and emergency services will continue.”
Later, they released a statement on their social media, saying, “As a result of the hard-working and dedicated staff, at no point have we not been able to provide coverage from all three City stations. However, like any situation, there is a limit to what we can do.”
The statement said that the nearby cities of Kannapolis and Concord were assisting in covering any shifts that were short staffed, adding, “The Office of the State Fire Marshal has supported our call for assistance as well.”
While these other agencies were assisting, the AFD said, “Our staff will be off during this time to allow for a break for their mental, physical, and emotional well-being.”
The outbreak at the AFD had, at its peak, 10 fire fighters who tested positive for COVID, with several since cleared to return to work.
“There are no new cases reported,” Albemarle Fire Chief Pierre Brewton told SCJ on July 26. “Of the three reported in the hospital, two remain in the hospital and one is home.”
The AFD had announced that the other agencies would cover fully for them until July 26 at 8 a.m. And according to plan, Brewton said, “Crews are reporting to their assigned shifts starting today.”
He said, though, that “The balance of the team members are scheduled to return by 7/30,” so “assistance is still needed until the balance of staff fully returns.”
Rep. Wayne Sasser (R-Stanly), who represents the area in the state House, told SCJ that “There’s been a lot of support with the community,” including a prayer vigil.
“I just hope everyone pulls through and continues to improve,” Sasser said. “All of those people have been in everybody’s prayers, and it looks like everyone’s going to survive; that’s a good thing.”
Brewton told SCJ he was grateful to those other fire departments for their assistance, saying, “The coverage provided by the state and other neighboring departments allowed for the City of Albemarle to continue high quality customer service and timely response commitment.”
In an earlier statement, the AFD said that they had recently been on the other side of this arrangement, and “Just as we delivered staffing assistance recently to the Kannapolis Fire Department in their time of need, the Kannapolis Fire Department will be providing staffing relief to the Albemarle Fire Department.”
The department did stress that there had been no gaps in fire coverage for the city during the COVID outbreak and resulting staffing difficulties.
“Thanks to everyone for your support of the Albemarle Fire Department,” the statement concluded. “Please continue to keep everyone in your thoughts as we face the challenges of COVID.”
The Albemarle Fire Department has three stations — Fire Station One, at 1610 East Main St., which covers the east side of the city; Fire Station Two, at 607 Concord Rd., which covers the west; and Fire Station Three, at 209 Northeast Connector, which covers the north.