Suburban high school helps fire department make masks during coronavirus pandemic

It's a problem happening all over the country: First responders running out of desperately needed personal protective gear.

Now, a number of suburban police and fire departments have found a hi-tech shortcut to get their hands on lifesaving equipment.

Captain John Kucharski of the Midlothian Fire Department says his firefighter-paramedics were in desperate need of N-95 masks to protect themselves when going into homes of potential COVID-19 patients 

“We do have masks now,” he said. “What are we going to do if we run out?”

Then Kocharski saw a story on Facebook about first responders in Billings, Montana making their own surgical masks using a 3-D printer. They’re called Montana Masks. 

However, where do you get a 3-D printer as soon as possible?

“When Jon reached out it was like a sign and we were able to get him what he needed,” said Dave Kibelkis, Bremen High School Principal.

Both Bremen High School and Oak Forest High School sent the 3-D printers used to teach engineering students to the Midlothian Fire Department, where they’ve been whizzing away making a new mask every three hours.

Bremen High School engineering teacher Greg Slade helped set them up.

“It’s great to give back in any way we can for everything they do for us,” said Slade. “Any way we can help to help them feel safe, I’m there to do whatever I can.”

While the masks are not FDA approved, tests show they’re remarkably effective and a whole lot better than a cheap paper mask or a bandanna.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our fire department, of our first responders for stepping up in the middle of a crisis and finding unique and creative ways to step up and help out everyone,” said Gary Lheureux, Midlothian Mayor.