How Do Wildfire Firefighters Guard Against COVID-19?
Besides assessing fire danger and how to safety fight the fire and protect the public, U.S. Forest Service crews also need to consider the threat of COVID-19. Nick Holloway of the Northern Rockies Type 2 Incident Management Team 6, at the Beaver and Marion Fires in Idaho west of the Bitterroot Valley, highlighted some of their precautions, including a "temperature checkpoint" on your way into fire camp (photo above).
Last year, teams would go to a fire and eat and sleep in a camp of up to 1,000 firefighters and meet together in the dining tent and gather in a group for planning sessions. Holloway, in a news release, said that now firefighters have a "module of one" where smaller groups of people work together. If one person gets sick, the whole module is quarantined. It resumes work until after testing results. The other modules are not affected.
Northern Rockies Team 6 in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest also tries to social distance as much as possible, and when its not, masks are required. Planning is mostly done online and some staff actually work from home, not at the fire camps. Medical and safety personnel perform regular temperature checks, including visitors to fire camps. The team is also concerned about protection of firefighters' families when they return home. Fighting forest fires is tough enough, without possible spread of disease. As the U.S. Forest Service has always said, firefighter and public safety is the number one objective.