ATTLEBORO (CBS) - Nine Attleboro firefighters -- that's ten percent of the department -- have tested positive for Covid-19.
Trouble began last Thursday, when a firefighter at the main firehouse on Union Street fell sick -- and immediately shared his suspicions with the chief.
As engine one rolled on a call Wednesday night with a Covid negative crew, some of the department's 90 firefighters were still being tested.
"We've gone through six months with something like this not happening," said Mayor Paul Heroux. "But it was almost inevitable that it was going to happen."
When that first firefighter came back positive, a flurry of testing found eight comrades with Covid -- all but one who shared the same sleeping quarters, kitchen, and equipment.
"All the evidence seems to point that it was spread while they were at the firehouse," the mayor said.
However, two other cases were confirmed in dispatchers who work out of the south Attleboro station.
Most of the sick have minor symptoms -- but a deputy chief is hospitalized in serious condition.
"Oh my gosh that's awful," said Attleboro resident Filomena Cobb, "because if they all start getting sick, who is going to help us when we need it?"
That shouldn't be a problem -- said the mayor -- because as sick staffers quarantine and others await testing, all shifts are covered by healthy firefighters working overtime -- if needed.
"We don't yet know yet know how it was introduced into the fire department," said Mayor Heroux.
With that question still unanswered, contact tracers are scouring the firefighters recent trail -- including folks they encountered on their emergency calls.
"The people they responded to were contacted as part of the contact tracing," said the mayor. "None of those have come up positive."
The firehouse and gear have been disinfected so the mayor says there's no risk to the public, and he says the fire station will get air purifiers and UV lights -- while residents pull for their stricken first responders.
"Exactly," said Alex Berrio, with his young daughter hoisted on his shoulders. "These guys are definitely more at risk than anybody, and our heart goes out to them."
The firefighter cluster comes at a tough time for the city. On Wednesday night, Attleboro officially earned a "red" designation from the state, with 60 Covid cases in the last two weeks.
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