Seattle firefighters on the front lines share what it's like fighting new virus

SEATTLE -- For first responders across the US and here at home, there is no guaranteed shield from a monstrous virus.

They cannot always socially distance, all they can do is protect themselves the best they can against COVID-19.

On Friday, we heard from Seattle firefighters on the frontlines for the first time.

There is no question that firefighters and all the others in the thick of fighting against the virus are showing incredible fortitude during this pandemic.

Every time they report to a call or tend to a sick person they are putting themselves at risk. Not to mention many are also worried about bringing the virus home to loved ones.

“Before we even get in that fire engine we are putting on our protective gears, the masks, the goggles the full PPE,” Seattle firefighter Sue Stangl said.

Stangl’s purpose to help and save lives as a firefighter remains steadfast.

In another room, Seattle Fire Dispatcher Hilton Almond is going the extra mile to look out for Stangl and other firefighters.

While first responders are on the way to a call, Almond will ask 911 callers extra questions to verify if the caller or anyone around them are having COVID-19-like symptoms.

That way first responders know how to minimize the danger once they are on scene.

“Just the other day I went to see a 35-year-old male, no health issues whatsoever and he was dramatically sick it was hard to see this guy gasping for air, coughing, fever all the signs of COVID-19, it’s a real reality check. This is not just people in nursing homes this is everybody,” Stangl said.

Stangl and Almond have worked through 9-11 and earthquakes but COVID-19 is a different beast.

“It’s affecting everyone top to bottom no matter who you are,” Almond said.

The crisis is simply hard to believe.

“To work and hardly seeing anyone on the road being a ghost town it’s something I never would have imagined,” Almond said.

They are human too, feeling the same things we are and Stangl says a "thank you" has gone a long way.

“Every time we are out in the community people are thanking us and recognizing that we are jumping in the hot zone for them and that’s been wonderful,” Stangl said.

But first responders say the best thing we can do to help everyone on the frontlines is to stay the course and stay at home.

“I want to inspire them to maintain the guidelines because that is the only ultimate way we can get through this and I am confident we can get through this,” Stangl said.

Over the last 4 weeks, Seattle Fire says they’ve seen a moderate increase in the number of 911 calls related to COVID-19 symptoms. But they want to remind the public that you should not call 911 if it’s not a true emergency. If you are feeling sick and concerned about having the virus, call your doctor.