Ventura County Firefighters Can't Buy All The Protective Masks They Need, So They Make Some

Apr 10, 2020

As public safety agencies on the Central and South Coasts struggle to get enough masks, one fire department in the region is dealing with the problem by making its own.  Some 20 Ventura County Fire Department firefighters are making masks.

The Department’s Wildland Division is home base for wildfire hand crews, bulldozer teams, and the aviation union.  The hand crews don’t have to worry about their primary job right now, fighting wildfires, with the rain we’re having.  The crews normally work on other projects when they aren’t needed for brush fires.

Battalion Chief Robert Szczepanek runs the Oxnard facility.  It includes some repair shops, including a sewing shop.  It’s where firefighters can repair their field packs, and make other essential items.

The sew shop is busy, with a half dozen firefighters making masks.

Ventura County Firefighter Kevin Ashley runs the sew shop.  He’s helped some of the other firefighters learn how to sew.  He says the firefighters have made about 500 of the reusable washable cloth masks.  As they’ve learned how to make them, production has ramped up to around 80 to 100 a day.

The department has specialized masks they use when dealing with medical class, but the reusable ones being made helps preserve the commercial made ones for when they are really needed.

It took them some experimentation to come up with the design.  They went through seven prototypes before settling on the one they are now mass producing.

Firefighter Kevin Ashley says it’s an unusual project, but thinks it’s great they can use their skills to help solve the mask problem.  The goal is to produce around a thousand of the masks, so everyone will have two, including one to wear, and one that can be in the wash.