Half of St. Augustine fire department sets up at local school to stop spread of COVID-19



The new make-shift fire station also means the fire department has a presence on the northside of St. Augustine, which cut response times to this area in half.


The St. Augustine Fire Department, like other fire departments, faces the threat of COVID-19.


Fire Chief Carlos Aviles said, "we’re a small agency."


In the St. Augustine Fire Department, there is a staff of 35 people. He said if one of them is exposed to COVID-19, it could mean the department loses an entire crew of seven people.


"It’s a fairly significant number," Aviles noted.


In order to not have most of the agency’s firefighters bunking and working under one roof at the main fire station, the fire chief asked the nearby Florida School for the Deaf and Blind (FSDB) if one of the fire crews could stay on the campus. 


FSDB President Jeanne Prickett told First Coast News, "Of course we said yes! You bet!"

"They were amazing. Just absolutely receptive to it," Aviles said. 


This works because FSDB has dorms on campus, and because of the pandemic, the students have all gone home. So for now, all the buildings are empty.


"The crews that are there all have their own individual rooms. So they’re not sharing rooms and potentially spreading the virus amongst themselves or cross-contaminating in between shifts," Aviles explained. 


Prickett added, "And they can park (the fire engine) right there, so they’re ready to jump and go."

St. Augustine Fire truck parked in front of Bloxham Hall.

The new make-shift fire station also means the fire department has a presence on the north side of St. Augustine, and that has cut response times to this area in half.


"I think it also adds extra peace of mind to the families of the responders. They’re leaving home and coming in to do this, knowing they could potentially be exposed," Aviles said. 


The school welcomed the firefighters with open arms and even hung a banner and gave the crew a name: the Northside Dragons. 


"The FSDB athletic program uses the dragons as the school's mascot," Aviles said. "They’ve just been phenomenal."


"We are so glad to be able to do something for our wonderful first responders," Prickett said. 


Aviles expects this extra fire department location to be in place for 30 days. Then, leaders will make a decision about how to proceed further.