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The Exchange Club Fire Fighter of the Year award for Joliet this year will go to the entire fire department, an “unprecedented” recognition, a club president said.
It’s been an unprecedented year, Joliet Fire Chief Greg Blaskey said.
“The Exchange Club felt based on the challenges we had this year from pandemic to civil unrest, all things that people in the department have not seen before, that it could not just pick one person,” Blaskey said.
The award ceremony itself will be unprecedented, being a virtual event due to social distancing requirements but shown on Facebook and Channel 6 community television when it is held at noon Tuesday.
The only nominee sent to the Exchange Club from the Joliet Fire Department was the fire department as a whole.
George Bode, president of Lincolnland District Exchange Clubs, said he understood the reasoning, noting that the fire department has reported no duty-related COVID-19 cases on the staff.
“This record speaks to the policies, training and the willingness of you personnel to follow the guidelines set by the department,” Bode wrote.
“To my knowledge,” he wrote of the single nomination of the entire fire department, “this is unprecedented, which is only fitting for such an honor.”
The fire department has had three COVID-19 cases, but they were not connected to duty and were mild, Blaskey said.
Fire department ambulances have transported 220 patients with COVID-19.
Fire department ambulances have been to Symphony of Joliet, which has had 130 cases and 25 deaths from COVID-19, and other Joliet nursing homes to transport patients.
Setting policies for COVID-19 has not been easy as understanding of the virus developed over time and guidance for personal protection equipment changed, Blaskey said.
Masks, gloves and eye protection are worn for all calls. Dispatchers ask questions when a call is made for an ambulance to determine if the patient may have COVID-19. If symptoms are present, paramedics upgrade to N95 masks, and gowns are worn.
“Everyone really stepped up,” Blaskey said, “and we met the challenges head-on.”