This morning, at approximately 8:00 am, Ladder 7 responded to a call of two people unconscious in a vehicle in a vacant lot in the 2700 block of NW 22nd Ave. Unbeknownst to the firefighters, the patients were suffering from an overdose.
During treatment, Ladder 7’s crew became exposed to a powdered substance and had to be transported to the hospital for examination. Cape Coral’s Hazardous Materials Team responded to identify the substance and confirmed it was fentanyl. Three of the firefighters were cleared to return to work, and one firefighter was sent home as a safety precaution. Ladder 7 and the Lee County ambulances used for transport were decontaminated before being placed back into service.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is over 50 times more potent than morphine. It blocks pain receptors so is prescribed for pain management. However, receptors for opioids are also found in the areas of the brain that control breathing, so high doses can cause respiratory arrest, possibly leading to death. Minor exposure to fentanyl can result in lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, slow and shallow breathing, and respiratory depression.