Fire chief shifts focus to protecting first responders


FAIRBORN — Having been back on the job for a little over a week, Fire Chief Dave Reichert has barely had time to slow down since his recovery from COVID-19.

The chief shared his story during Gov. Mike DeWine’s press conference earlier this month, but has since shifted focus to preventing future outbreaks from happening amongst his firefighters.

Firefighters and other first responders are subject to strict guidelines on personal protective equipment and other health and safety standards. For example, firefighters are required to wear full PPE during every call they take, including an N95 mask, eye protection and gloves. Even inside the firehouse, the city has limited cross-city travel between stations. With firefighters living inside the fire stations, family members aren’t allowed to visit.

Fire department policies have not changed due to the chief’s illness. However, Reichert said, having the virus has personally solidified the importance of the changes they have made.

“The City of Fairborn has been taking this seriously from the very beginning,” he said in a phone interview. “I’m proud that we’ve been very aggressive. We’ve made constant operational adjustments to protect our guys and gals.”

Inside the firehouse, masks and social distancing are one thing. Safety out on the job is quite another. Firefighters have had to make tactical changes to protect themselves during an emergency. Often, this means conducting reconnaissance, and getting as much information about the scene as possible.

“There is no playbook for a pandemic response. The closest thing we have was 100 years ago,” Reichert said. “Once this is done, maybe we can write that playbook, so in the future we know how to handle this.”

Wearing full PPE while conducting an emergency call is no easy feat. Facial coverings add an extra layer of stress to an already taxing job.

“I am extremely proud of my guys and gals in this fire department,” Reichert added. “I can’t say enough about the services they provide on the streets of the city, given the stresses they undergo.”

The fire department has worked closely with Greene County Public Health to come up with these tactical changes. The close level of cooperation between the two institutions has significantly shaped the department’s emergency response efforts in the age of COVID-19.

“I can’t say enough for the Greene County health department,” Reichert said. “This has certainly opened up a very good relationship with them. It’s been a hand in hand approach to find a plan to mitigate this pandemic.”

Reichert shared his experience battling the coronavirus during DeWine’s press conference on Aug. 4. Both he and his wife Melissa, a healthcare worker herself, contracted the disease from an unknown source. Their illness ran the gamut of symptoms, and the two quarantined for three weeks before the health department cleared them to go back to work.

Both have started the process of donating their blood plasma to patients still suffering from COVID-19.

By London Bishop

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Reach London Bishop at (937) 502-4532

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