RICHMOND — A box of masks meant to help protect emergency medical workers from exposure to the coronavirus was apparently stolen from outside the Richmond Fire Department last week.

The department is thus low on surgical masks, which are put on patients during rescue calls to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, at least for now.

Fire Chief John Bellino said another shipment of masks and other personal protective equipment is on the way to replace the items that went missing, and should arrive soon.

The department ordered masks through an Emergency Management Agency and Maine Center for Disease Control program supplying PPE to public entities in need of them. The order was expected to arrive last week at the Richmond Fire Department on Myrtle Street.

When the order didn’t show up, department members inquired and confirmed with the supplier that a box had been delivered, and left outside the front of the station. Bellino was not sure who delivered the box.

“We’d been expecting it and were wondering where it was and then confirmed it had been delivered to the front of the station,” Bellino said. “We surmised it was stolen.”

Police Chief James Donnell said Friday the missing box was reported to him by a firefighter Thursday, and he is investigating. He planned to watch security camera footage from the Umberhine Public Library, which sits across the road from the fire department, to see if it caught any footage of the box being delivered and/or taken.

Ian Alexander, a member of the Richmond Fire Department and corporal with the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office, posted about the PPE disappearance Thursday on Facebook.

“Richmond E.M.S. works hard to help the citizens in the community. Medical calls are on the increase and we need to protect the providers and patients. Personal protective equipment is essential to keep everyone safe,” he wrote. “Last week, a package was delivered to the fire department and left at the door. Someone took it upon themselves to take the package. This has now left your essential caregivers short handed. Who ever may have done this, I hope you share the masks.”

While the department is low on surgical masks, Bellino expected more to arrive before the department runs out.

Several people via social media have also offered to replace the supplies that went missing, and expressed frustration that someone may have taken the supplies used by rescue workers.

Bellino said the surgical masks are given to patients on rescue calls, and emergency responders wear masks and N-95 masks on all emergency medical services calls.

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