By Beth Germano

WELLESLEY (CBS) – Like all firefighters, the crew on New Bedford’s ladder four at Station 8 doesn’t always know what’s ahead and who’ll they come in contact with when they answer the call.

“I thought I was pretty well protected,” said Cpt. Daniel Coons, “but I was wrong with that.”

He tested positive for COVID-19 nearly three weeks ago. He was one of the first to get vaccinated at his station and now the first to contract the virus with a breakthrough case.

“It started with a sore throat, two days later extreme exhaustion, and by the third day I had heavy congestion,” Coons said.

He’s not alone as there’s been a recent uptick in COVID cases at Massachusetts firehouses that the union representing the first responders is now tracking.

“We don’t want to be part of the problem and spread it to the public we’re responding to,” said Richard MacKinnon, President of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts. “We also don’t want to infect our families, that’s the biggest concern with our firefighters.”

At least 10 breakthrough cases have been reported in eight communities including Attleboro, New Bedford, Plymouth, Cambridge, Saugus, Lynn, Lowell and East Bridgewater.

MacKinnon said the concern is there could be more cases if the firefighters are asymptomatic. They work in close quarters and their exposure is high.

“Those few days I was doing multiple fire alarm and sprinkler inspections and tests,” said Coons.

No one can say for sure why the breakthrough cases have risen just in the last week or two, but the concern is the Delta variant.

Coons hopes vaccination gave him some protection.

“I’m hoping it protected me and kept me out of the hospital, but it didn’t keep me out of bed,” Coons said.

And after 15 days, he’s back to do the job again.

Beth Germano