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Local fire departments begin administering COVID-19 vaccine to first responders

Sac Fire and Sac Metro Fire were part of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, which began for county firefighters as part of Phase 1A of California's distribution plan.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —

As California's vaccine distribution rolls out, firefighters across the state are receiving their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine. 

Several local fire departments recently began administering their first doses. According to Fire Chief of Sacramento Fire Department Gary Loesch, some in his department started getting their first round of vaccines Thursday morning.

"Myself and a couple other members of Sacramento Fire have gotten their first shot today, and that was the Moderna shot," Chief Loesch said in a conversation with ABC10.

Firefighters are part of Phase 1A in California's vaccine rollout plan because they work on the frontlines, with the public, and often in a medical capacity, said Loesch. Sacramento fire personnel that are scheduled as 1A for the coronavirus vaccine have some type of medical training.

"We do not have any personnel in the field who are not at least, at the bare minimum, an EMT," said public information officer for Sacramento Fire Department Keith Wade.

Chief Loesch says that Sacramento fire personnel deal with patients every day in hospitals, as well.

"The hospital environment--the ER workers, doctors and nurses, were the first frontline ones to get the shot. Well, that's where all of my paramedics and EMTs go," Loesch said.

This differs from other public-facing entities, like law enforcement or traffic control.

"Where police officers also engage with the citizens of Sacramento, we engage more with them in the medical part of the field," Loesch said.

Captain and public information officer for Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department Chris Vestal adds that if staffing issues were to arise due to a COVID-19 infections, as they did with teachers at 3 Turlock schools mid-December, it could cause serious issues for emergency response across the county. 

"If you lose that ability to respond to emergencies, we could suffer greater loss of life," Vestal said. "Not just from COVID, but other disasters as well, whether it be something as minor as a fire, or whether as routine as somebody having a heart attack." 

Fire personnel provide advanced life support, and with a number of fires already starting off 2021, the vaccine can allow county firefighters, paramedics and EMTS to stay health and continue to work. 

As of now, roughly a dozen people at Sacramento Fire Department have received their first dose of the vaccine, but about 1,000 shots will be offered next week, according to Chief Loesch. He adds that next week's allotment is not just for his department, but for Metro, Folsom, and all other departments in the county as well. Signing up for a slot is first-come, first served.

Vestal broke down the steps involved in getting the vaccine when he had his appointment on Friday morning. 

"It's the same process for all the first responder agencies in Sacramento County, where the members themselves will sign up for the link to get their appointment time. They'll go on their own to receive it," Vestal said. 

Sac Metro Fire has about 500 first responders who are all eligible for the vaccine. Firefighters and first responders will still wear masks, have PPE and take COVID-19 precautions, vaccinated or not, Vestal said. As of now, operations will not look that different, but those emergency workers will be protected.  

"It's really important that this vaccine is out there," Vestal said. "It's really important that the first responders are receiving it, as much as it is for the public at large to receive that in the coming months."

Loesch says he, like several other local fire chiefs and captains, was one of the first to receive the vaccine because he wanted to "lead from the front" when it comes to voluntary vaccination against COVID-19. 

"I do think as more people get the vaccine and see that there's little to minimal, you know, aches, pains whatever reaction to it, I think more of the citizens will take the shot…but I do believe ultimately, most of my members, if not all, will end up…getting the shot to protect themselves, their families and the citizens of Sacramento," Chief Loesch said.

Here are some other local Northern California fire departments that have announced their first vaccinations:

California Professional Firefighters

In a video message, President of Brian K. Rice broke down some of the next steps and good practices as fire departments begin to receive their first doses. 

Roseville Fire Department

Some Roseville firefighters received the Moderna vaccine on Dec. 30. 

"Fire Chief Bartee was one of the department members who received the vaccination to reinforce his message to the department and community that he has full confidence in the vaccine and its efficiency," the department said in a Facebook post. "Having members of the department receive this vaccine will allow us to continue to safely serve and protect our Roseville community and ensure the health of our department members." 

Auburn City Fire Department

Auburn City announced that some members received their first dose last week. 

"With the Covid-19 vaccine becoming more and more available, some of our own members from Auburn City Fire have taken the opportunity to receive the vaccine," a spokesperson for the department said in a Facebook post. "Our members strive to keep themselves and our community safe and healthy by practicing social distancing, wearing a mask and going the extra mile when it comes to cleanliness."

Vacaville Fire Department

The Vacaville Fire Department said in a Facebook post, "We are very happy to report our firefighter/paramedics and emergency medical technicians have begun getting the COVID-19 vaccine. We are happy to do our part in the fight against this pandemic. A huge “thank you” to Solano County Public Health and North Bay Medical Center for making this happen." 

Yolo County Fire Departments

Firefighters all over Yolo County serving communities and residents are set to receive the first of two COVID-19 vaccinations this week as a part of the County’s Phase 1A, Tier 1 vaccine distribution.

Ceres Fire Department

About two weeks ago, Ceres Fire Chief Kevin Wise and three other Ceres fire personnel received the COVID-19 vaccine at Emanuel Hospital in Turlock. 

According to the department, 60 doses were offered to first responders during the first week of availability and more are planned for the coming weeks.

"We appreciate all the hard work and commitment that healthcare workers, paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters have done during this pandemic," a spokesperson for Ceres Fire said in a Facebook post. "We continue to protect and help our #CeresCommunity."

Yocha Dehe Fire Department

The fire department received its first doses on Wednesday, with Fire Chief Rebecca Ramirez receiving her first shot. 

"Thank you to Dignity Health, Yolo County, and Woodland Fire Department for helping firefighters throughout Yolo County with their first round of COVID-19 vaccinations today! We so appreciate the community coming together to protect those who protect others," Yocha Dehe Fire said. 

Rio Vista

"Today, members from RVFD received the COVID-19 vaccine at Northbay Medical Center," Rio Vista Fire said in a Facebook post. "Thank you to their staff and the folks at Solano County who made this possible."

Yuba City

"Today, members of your Yuba City Fire Department received their first round of the COVID-19 vaccine. As front line workers we feel fortunate to have this opportunity to help slow the spread of this disease," a spokesperson for the department said. 

South Lake Tahoe

A large percentage of South Lake Tahoe fire personnel are now vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, according to the department. 

City of Turlock

Some Turlock firefighters began receiving their vaccine the morning of Jan. 12.

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