Black Mountain Fire Department set to distribute free, at-home COVID-19 test kits

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
COVID-19 antigen self-tests

The Black Mountain Fire Department is set to distribute 160 free, at-home COVID-19 test kits, received from the Buncombe County Health Department.

"Typically emergency services are involved in these sorts of things," said Josh Harrold, the town manager. "That just seemed like a logical place to house those tests and give them out to citizens."

Test kits will also be distributed by the Swannanoa Fire Department and the Broad River Fire Department.

The Black Mountain fire department will distribute the test kits on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Originally scheduled to end distribution at 3 p.m. per the county health department's guidelines, the hours were extended to better accommodate working people. 

Recipients will receive a bag of 10 masks with a test kit, with no more than two kits going to a present adult. Individuals must be present to receive a test kit as the department will not hold or reserve any kits or masks. 

Since children under the age of 14 cannot self-administer tests, per kit instructions, tests will be distributed only to adults. Fire Chief Scottie Harris hopes for one kit per adult so as many people as possible can get one. 

"We do ask people to be respectful and mindful," Harris said. "Especially with COVID being as rampant as it is right now with this new variant, we'd like to help as many people as we can."

In addition to in-person distribution at the fire station, Harris said people can order kits online to be delivered. 

More:Free tests now available online; 400 million masks being distributed: COVID-19 updates

Originally set to receive 200 kits, Harris said the fire department received 160 from the health department. With recent difficulties of finding and accessing test kits, the fire chief anticipates the tests will likely go fast. 

Harrold said once kits run out, the town will reach out to the county health department to see if more are available, depending on how quickly the tests are distributed. He said  the new federal rollout of test kits by mail should help with access. 

"If there's a need, we'll absolutely try to get more," Harrold said. "I do think they'll go fairly quickly." 

Harris said if the fire crew on duty receives a call, people will have to wait or come back for a test kit as no firefighters will be left at the station during an active emergency to hand out tests. 

If individuals arrive at the station with symptoms, Harris asked that recipients of kits wear masks. Especially for the fire staff, keeping everyone safe so the department can still provide emergency services remains a priority. 

"If you do have signs or symptoms, try to get tested as quickly as possible and isolate yourself," Harris said. "You don't know if it's the cold during this season or if it's actually the COVID that's spreading rampant."