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With personal protective equipment needed for every call, businesses pitch in to provide it

Two weeks ago, the volunteer firefighters of Colton Rural Fire District No. 70 received directives to be implemented immediately. These included using personal protection equipment such as medical-grade masks, respirators, gloves, eye protection, protection suits, disinfectant and surgical gowns.

"When we respond to a call, we will look different than before," said CRFD Lieutenant Brad Kuhn, "and we immediately mask the patient."

Kuhn said it was a real struggle to get the gear for the station. He said they have PPE, but before the spread of COVID-19, it was not used for all calls. Now it is, and finding the backup supplies was difficult, but he has positive stories to tell about local businesses stepping up to help.

He said one of the volunteer firefighters was recently at Wilco in Canby and noticed two P100 respirators on the shelves. The volunteer called the station and asked if he should pick them up.

"We thought if Canby has some, what other Wilcos might as well," Kuhn said, "so we called their corporate office. They worked day and night and found enough P100s for Canby, Molalla and Colton Fire Departments."

Kuhn knew the shelves at Tractor Supply in Molalla had been stocked, although the doors had never opened to the public. So he called the Tractor Supply corporate office and asked if they had any supplies that first responders could use during the pandemic crisis.

"They called me back and said I could 'raid' the store," Kuhn said. "I was met by the store manager who had a shopping cart ready. We went through the store for PPE equipment and loaded the shopping cart with disinfectant, masks, face shields and more. When I went up to pay, they donated everything and told us to 'stay safe.' It was amazing and so generous."

COURTESY PHOTO: COLTON FIRE - A case of gloves donated to the Colton Fire Department by Curt's Automotive in Elwood. The local station is in need of other donations.

The local department also received about 1,500 pairs of gloves from Curt's Automotive in Elwood.

Kuhn said the Clackamas County Emergency Operations Center is open, and firefighters can send in lists of what they need. If equipment shows up, it will be sent to the department. He said if the pandemic lasts another month, the local fire departments are expecting to experience shortages and are looking to the communities for donations of PPE including N95 and surgical masks, full face shields, goggles, and medical-grade disinfectant. You can drop of donations, but call 503-824-2545 first, as the doors are locked.

"I am so impressed with our firefighters," Kuhn said. "This is a team effort, and I am impressed with the dedication of our Colton volunteers. They don't get paid but do this for their community, and right now it is not just about helping but if they are exposed, not only will they be quarantined, and it could affect their jobs and livelihood. They do this because they are here for you."

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