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CRFR adapts to pandemic with service innovations

COVID-19 outbreak has Colorado River Fire Rescue changing procedures to better help communities

Colorado River Fire Rescue engines sit at a fire call earlier this year in Rifle. With the COVID-19 outbreak the department and staff is adapting to keep the community and staff safe. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)

As Garfield County and the state of Colorado reels from the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado River Fire Rescue Chief Randy Callahan said the department continues normal service while trying to evolve and innovate ways to keep the department and community safe. 

“Our last five weeks has been nothing but change,” Callahan said. “Our folks are not only adapting to it, but they are out front leading it.”

In addition to their daily response, Colorado River Fire Rescue prepares for the usual increased spring/summer time incidents including floods, mudslides and wildfires.

Callahan said one of the biggest challenges is that fire departments are built upon the value of community engagement.

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All of CRFR’s stations are currently on lockdown, which Callahan said is hard for the department, and they are struggling with the self-isolation, while continuing community service.

“We are the safe haven, we are where you come for help, and now you have to come and ring the doorbell,” Callahan said.

“That’s a huge change, but we have to keep it out of the stations.”

CRFR is responding to this large-scale, complex, and inter-agency event with a preparedness, response and communication mindset. Callahan said that throughout the organization, CRFR staff at all levels is providing innovative assistance, adapting to new behaviors and demonstrating the resourcefulness of an agile workforce.

CRFR first responders are wearing different protective equipment than usual along with Tyvek suits when they respond to COVID-19 calls, with no calls clearing the hospital until the crew and the ambulances are decontaminated.

Callahan said the new procedures are in place to prevent and minimize exposure that would require quarantining paramedics and firefighters.

CRFR has developed Incident Action Plans on a 48-hour cycle in an attempt to communicate current expectations and future planning. 

They have also worked with county fire agencies to form an EMS group that meets daily with county responders and hospitals.  

Callahan said this group is working on acquiring protective gear, standardized response protocols, and single medical direction for COVID-19 operations.

Callahan said he is thankful that several companies in the community are donating protective equipment to the department.

As essential workers, CRFR employees carry their ID badges to assure unrestricted travel to and from work. Administrative staff is working remotely from home, maintaining the needs of operational personnel and the communities CRFR serves.

CRFR had to postpone its Recruit Academy at CMC and canceled training at the complex.

Callahan said the board approved a Declaration of Local Disaster emergency on March 24.

“It allows us to do emergency operational preparation, and may lead to additional resources and cost recoveries,” Callahan said.

“CRFR is committed to serving its citizens and communities with a service-minded and community-engaged approach. Our focus is keeping our responders safe so they can serve the communities and keep the folks safe.”

kmills@postindependent.com


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