18 Six Nations fire staff in isolation as colleague awaits COVID-19 test results

18 Six Nations fire staff in isolation as colleague awaits COVID-19 test results

Six Nations Fire Chief Matthew Miller is in isolation, along with several of his colleagues while a firefighter waits to hear back on the results of a test for COVID-19. (Colin Cote-Paulette/CBC)

The Six Nations Fire Chief is currently in self-isolation, along with 17 of his colleagues, as a member of the fire service awaits the results of a test for COVID-19.

"A member of our fire platoon is concerned about a potential exposure to COVID-19 and notified us right away, which allows us to take immediate steps to limit the spread of the virus," stated chief Matthew Miller in a media release Sunday.

He added public health officials will be contacting people who should also take steps to isolate themselves from others right away.

The media release initially said 12 people including the chief were in isolation. But a Six Nations spokesperson confirmed Monday that the number has now risen to 18.

Miller said he and the other firefighters have separated themselves as a precaution.

"This is what we ask all of our members to do if they believe they could have been exposed to COVID-19, and we will lead by example," he explained.

Among those in isolation are 10 firefighters at Station 1, said Six Nations Chief Mark Hill in a media update Monday. 

Those members will be moved to a different location so the station can be cleaned and reopened as soon as possible.

Eight other firefighters and support staff are staying home.

Fire service will continue

The remaining firefighters are working out of Station 5, said Hill. Neighbouring communities have agreed to help as needed, so emergency services will be available while the fire crews wait to hear back on the result of the tests.

"Emergency services in Six Nations have been impacted, but service will continue to be provided to our community," said the chief.

"It must be clearly understood the remaining, non-isolated firefighters … pose no risk to the public."

If Ohsweken Public Health tells the firefighter their test for the new coronavirus was negative they will return to work. But if they are positive for COVID-19 they will be directed to stay in isolation for 14 days and report any symptoms.

There were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Six Nations as of Sunday.

The elected council and confederacy chiefs council are working together to take on the virus and declared a state of emergency on March 13.

Hill said officials are working tirelessly to "stay in front of this crisis" and taking precautions to protect those who live there.

"We don't know the status of the results – positive or negative, but we must take immediate measures to safeguard our community. We have a system in place to find and isolate potential COVID-19 exposures – this is the system working like it's supposed to."

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