Faces of the Frontlines: Steamboat firefighter’s mission unchanged
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Longtime Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Captain Michael Arce is ready for anything his job brings, and these days that includes coming in contact with the novel coronavirus.
“We wear a mask when we’re riding in the engine; we wear masks on all of our calls no matter what it is,” Arce said. “I mean, there are certain parts of the job where we have to be together. This is just the way it goes, so we take the best precautions we can.”
Since early March, Arce and his fellow firefighters have had to adjust to the reality that their jobs, which have always been dangerous, are more challenging than ever.
“They’re on the frontlines, and they are putting themselves in harm’s way, willingly,” said Interim Fire Chief Chuck Cerasoli. “The staff here is so proactive in making sure that they understand the disease, they understand the disease process and they also understand the guidelines and regulations that the state and the county have put forth. Our staff knows exactly what they need to do, how to do it and how to stay safe.”
Arce first started working for the local fire department in 1995.
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“I grew up here, and I know it sounds a little corny, but I like giving back to my community, giving back to the place where I grew up,” Arce said. “I can’t think of a better way.”
He started as a volunteer before earning a paid position in 2002, and on most days, he said the calls he responds to are all over the board.
“Yesterday we responded to a wildland fire, a suspected car accident, a couple of general alarms and we ran a lift assist (where people fall and can’t get up) and a couple of medical calls,” Arce said.
“We have to treat all of the calls that we go on as if they are COVID related,” Arce explained. “We don’t know if the guy that we’re picking up off the floor, who just fell out of bed, has it. When we go to Casey’s Pond, we’ve got to assume that it’s there. And the same is true when we go on a seizure call or a call for an intoxicated person, so we’re wearing full PPE and taking all the precautions.”
Arce said all of the firefighters are taking COVID-19 seriously, because they know an outbreak could seriously impact the department and its ability to serve the community.
“We’re doing what everybody else is doing. I’m staying at home hanging out with my wife and my dog and social distancing, and all that sort of thing. We’re playing by the rules,” Arce said. “If we were to lose a shift because of COVID that would really hurt.”
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