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DIGGING DEEPER: Coronavirus decontamination

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TUCSON - When it comes to stopping the spread of the coronavirus, and flattening the curve first-responders are on the frontline.

So, how do they make sure the vehicles they use to transport COVID-19 patients aren't becoming hot-zones?

“With this new product that were using and this new method, we're actually getting into the nooks and crannies of these vehicles,” said Battalion Chief John Walka of Rural Metro Fire.

Getting into those hard-to-reach areas, to help stop the spread of coronavirus is what the fogger is all about.

It uses a compound called vital oxide, a combination of several disinfectants and is then used to spray every square-inch inside first-responder vehicles.

“We've always taken extreme precautions spraying down our rigs after every call, wiping everything down,” said Casey Curtis, an engineer of Rural Metro Fire. “This is one more layer to protect our firefighters, and protect the public from us spreading it from a previous patient.”

After about 15 minutes of the fogger running, the vehicle is then painstakingly wiped-down by hand, a process that literally could mean the difference between life and death.

“This virus can stay on surfaces for 72 hours,” said Nathan Cosmas, a firefighter for Rural Metro Fire. “So I think it's really important to get that fog machine going and wipe it down and take extra precautions to stay safe from this virus.”

It takes 30 minutes to decontaminate an ambulance, but it takes 15 minutes longer to do a fire truck.

For Rural Metro Fire, it has always been a top priority to keep both their crews and patients safe.

However, now with the unseen threat the coronavirus poses, taking time to carefully contaminate emergency vehicles is more important than ever.

“I'm really happy about it,” said Cosmas. “It makes me feel a lot more safe that we're taking extra precautions to you know keep us safe, away from this virus.”

Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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