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Colorado fire department says it’s developed a way to sterilize, reuse N95 masks amid shortage

N95 mask UV box
South Fork Fire Rescue

SOUTH FORK, Colo. (KRDO) -- N95 masks are ideally single-use, which contributes to the shortage felt by first responders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That's why one southern Colorado fire department sought out a way to extend the life of each mask.

South Fork Fire Rescue in the San Luis Valley says it's developed a way to safely reuse a mask up to 10 times.

"This UVC Chamber allows the use of an N95 to be extended to 10 times vs a single-use," said Captain Tyler Schmidt with SFFR in a Facebook post. "It doesn't cure the current shortage being experienced during the COVID-19 Pandemic, but it will help us stretch our masks a little longer until the factories can keep up with demand."

Schmidt posted a video explaining how to build the UV light chamber and the department's calculations.

Schmidt also provided a calculation worksheet. He says the numbers suggest an N95 mask will survive about 10 "cook times" of about 10 minutes each before beginning to degrade.

Schmidt says the San Luis Valley hasn't seen the surge in cases that the Front Range has yet, but they're gearing up for it.

"We're anticipating the need for a sterilization process," he said. "We've transported three COVID-19 patients ourselves [so far]."

See here for more information and to download the instructions and calculations.

Have more questions? You can email

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Suzie Ziegler

Suzie is a digital content producer and reporter. Learn more about Suzie here.


1 Comment

  1. The calculations are based on ideal conditions, and on the effect on Adenovirus, which is not the same as Coronavirus. Whether the two behave the same has not been studied, but COVID-19 is known to mutate and may behave completely differently in terms of viability after UV irradiation.
    Undoubtedly a good idea, but needs to be more thoroughly tested instead of assuming that conditions significantly different from the original lab conditions will produce comparable results in real life.

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