SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange Fire Department recently received a donation of 4,500 medical masks but needs only 900 of them. The other 3,600 were split evenly and donated to the South Orange Police Department, South Orange Rescue Squad, Livingston Fire Department and West Orange Office of Emergency Management. SOFD Chief Daniel Sullivan wanted to share the wealth, since personal protective equipment has become hard to come by during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You keep going on calls, you go through a lot,” he said in a phone interview on May 11.
The masks were donated to the department by Livingston resident Kaixuan Liu, a doctor at the Atlantic Spine Center. He was familiar with South Orange because of firefighter and FMBA Local 40 President Jimmy Jennings, whose wife, Aylin, also works at Atlantic Spine Center.
“It’s in the name of the union, ‘benevolent,’” Sullivan said. “It’s a name that means something to us. We help as many people as we can.”
The West Orange Fire Department received masks through the OEM office, and Chief Anthony Vecchio said that they’ll be using them to help local businesses and facilities.
“Surgical masks do not meet NIOSH or PEOSH requirements for respiratory protection for our Fire/EMS use, however, we really appreciate the donation since we have been inundated with requests from local facilities for any type of protection,” he said in an email on May 8. “We will try to pay it forward where we can by distributing them where they are needed most.”
Even with all of the gear that firefighters wear when they’re out on a call, more PPE has been needed. They have to clean everything they wear in a giant washing machine called an extractor and wipe down everything that was touched in the fire trucks.
“It adds a lot to the daily routine,” Sullivan said. “But when people say we’re in this together, we really are. So we want to help in any way we can.”