We are meeting with some friars from Niepokalanów who make up a unit of the Volunteer Fire Brigade. The unit is headquartered at the Niepokalanów Friary and is manned entirely by friars. It was founded while St. Maximilian was still alive and it is still in operation today. We are interviewing two of the unit members: Friar Janusz KULAK and Friar Marek GĄSIOROWSKI:

Are you ready to get involved during this epidemic?
“Yes, we were getting ready, but…for our exam. The announcement of the pandemic in Poland was made on the eve of our certification exam. In fact, we are supposed to take a certification exam every three years in order to renew our qualifications and permits so that we can perform emergency medical services. Unfortunately, after many days of study and various training courses, we were unable to take the exam because of guidelines given by the National Fire Brigade Command, which concerned the prohibition of assemblies and other meetings, including training meetings. Some friars and firefighters rejoiced, but others were saddened.”

Have you received any special guidelines for the pandemic? Are you going into action with any special protection?
“Yes, we have received guidelines on how to carry out rescue and firefighting operations during the epidemic. We had to get protective clothing and disinfectants, which we use before and after the action. We are getting a lot of calls now, especially for brushwood and grass fires. Wherever it is dry and windy, the fire spreads quickly. Fortunately, due to the low traffic, there have been no road accidents. In those cases we would be more exposed to infection. The guidelines from the National Fire Brigade Command define the procedures and how to deal with such events in order to limit the risk of infection as much as possible. However, safeguarding human life and health is always the priority.”

I heard that you are also helping the professional units of the Fire Brigade and are adopting the appropriate procedures.
“Yes, sometimes we assist the city of Sochaczew, when the professional units of the state fire department have more demanding calls, and lack the manpower and resources to ensure the safety of the city. The difference is that, in order to limit contact, we don’t go into their barracks; we park in front of the state fire station and wait for orders in our cars. During rescue and firefighting operations, we keep contact with other people, and with other units of the local fire brigade, to the required minimum. Before they send us into action, the State Fire Department Command does a telephone triage and checks whether or not the victims of an accident, or the people present at the fire site, are infected with coronavirus or if they are under quarantine.”

Do you get any special calls or assignments?
“Our unit is included in the national emergency and fire prevention system, so we can be called at any time for wider activities related to the epidemic, for example, transporting the sick (we have our own ambulance). So we are on alert.”

Are you a little afraid? Have you adopted any special procedures for this pandemic?
“For many years in our work as firefighters, we have experienced God’s Providence and the care and protection of Mary Immaculate. Even now that the risk is a little bigger, we trust her and we entrust our service to her. We join in prayer with all the friars, and with all the people who are affected by this epidemic in some way. We entrust you all to the Immaculate. Peace and All Good!”

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