Grand Forks Fire Station 5 closed after firefighter tests positive for COVID-19

The firefighter who tested positive, as well as two additional firefighters who came into contact with him, have been placed in isolation. Grand Forks Fire Chief Gary Lorenz said it remains unclear when Fire Station 5 will reopen.

Kevin Carpenter cleans bay windows Wednesday in preparation of the grand opening at Fire Station No. 5 in Grand Forks, ND. (Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)

A Grand Forks firefighter has been placed in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. Fire Station 5, located at 1002 47th Ave. S., has been closed for disinfecting, and two additional firefighters have been quarantined as a precaution.

The firefighter last worked a 24-hour shift on Thursday, April 30, and Grand Forks Fire Chief Gary Lorenz said he learned about the positive test late Monday night, May 4. He said that, while he assumes the firefighter answered calls for service on Thursday, he said he considers community spread unlikely since firefighters wear personal protective gear on all calls. Lorenz said he was unsure when the firefighter was tested or when the results were received, and how the firefighter was infected remains under investigation.

With the fire station and its fire engine temporarily out of service, Lorenz said there will be impacts to the fire department's ability to quickly answer calls on the far south end of town. While Fire Station 5 is closed, he said the next nearest stations, Fire Station 3 on South Columbia Road and Fire Station 1 on DeMers Avenue, will take calls that come in from that area.

"Which is basically what it was before (Fire Station 5) opened in 2017," he said. "In our business, time is everything, and so having that slight delayed response is a concern to me, but I feel that it's a necessary response, given the current situation."


For the past month and a half, personnel have taken precautions, such as fully disinfecting the stations twice a day and limiting contact between shifts as much as possible, according to Lorenz. He said he hopes full disinfecting of Fire Station 5 will be complete by Wednesday.

Grand Forks Director of Public Health Debbie Swanson said in Tuesday press briefing that it's unlikely there will be targeted testing in the fire department because of one positive case, and that it's generally recommended that mass tests are reserved for clusters of cases. First responders, including fire fighters, were invited to be tested as part of a previous mass testing event in Grand Forks. Lorenz said no individuals came forward to say they had tested positive in that event, making this the fire department's first positive case.

"The protection of our employees and the protection of our citizens is our No. 1 priority, and we're doing everything we can to make that happen," he said.

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