Bay Area firefighter paramedic deployed to SoCal hospital describes COVID-19 situation

MARIN, Calif. (KGO) -- As COVID-19 cases surge, Bay Area firefighters are getting deployed to hospitals across the state.

Bob Craft, a firefighter paramedic from the Central Marin Fire Department is working the nightshift. Two hours into his shift, he intubated a patient in the emergency department who arrived to the hospital with stroke like symptoms and prepped a COVID-19 patient for their flip onto their stomach for the rest of the night.

"It's the gamut from really regular people coming to the emergency department to people on ventilators on the ICU who are on the COVID ward," said craft.

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After a 12 hour shift, Steve Deck arrived to his hotel.

"IV's, blood draws, move patients around and in the times that the ICU get busy we go up to the ICU and we help the nurses up there," said Steve Deck, Captain and firefighter paramedic with the Fremont Fire department describing his current work.

Deck arrived to Bakersfield a week ago and when he first walked into the hospital, here's what he saw:

"We walked in the ER there was somebody already in respiratory failure so it was like, 'wow this is it.' We are going to work, let's get going. I remember putting on a pair of gloves I already had, my other PPE on and we just started going to work right when we walked in."

Deck is one of a handful of Bay Area firefighter paramedics deployed to one of the most stressed hospitals in Bakersfield and in a county where there is 84,000 COVID-19 cases and 565 deaths.

Luz Pena: "How would you describe the surge you're experiencing in Bakersfield?"

Steve Deck: "I've been in EMS for 19 years now and I never remember seeing anything like this. I've never seen hospitals look like this back home," and added, "Currently there are 30-40 patients on ventilators. Basically the whole second floor at this hospital has been converted into an ICU. You go into places that you normally wouldn't see in an ICU and there are patients in ventilators with multiple med pumps."

Many of these firefighters commit to a 2 week deployment.

"Often the communities forgets that we are part of the health care system and we have a lot of trained personnel. We are used to working in disasters and truly everybody wants to help. Wherever we can we want to get more vaccines into people's arms and we want to help hospitals that are surging. This is an extension of what we do every day," said Jason Weber, Fire Chief at the Marin County fire Department.

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Robert Maitland, public information officer of the City of Mountain View Fire Department, joined ABC7 News at 3 p.m. to share about why some Bay Area firefighters and paramedics have gone down to help hospitals in Southern California as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Weber this region sent about 40 firefighters to the frontline of the pandemic in our state.

"It's a big commitment to be gone away from home for two weeks. At the same time we are trying to staff our vaccination pots in Marin and we are providing about 20 firefighters a day to assist in that process," said Jason Weber, Fire Chief at the Marin County fire Department.

Back home they're used to seeing each other at wildfires, and now they are wearing scrubs and fighting a new fight.

"It's really nice to have other fire guys here who are on the same boat. Even though we are from different department we come from the same cloth and it's good to have their support," said Craft.

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