Wildfire Response Faces Major Overhaul Amid Pandemic

Some agencies are considering changes like online training and waivers for people who have been certified previously.
Posted at 2:01 PM, Apr 10, 2020

Wildfire response is facing a major overhaul amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It's too early to tell how severe fires will be this year, but spring and summer are typical times for the National Weather Service to issue "red flag warnings" — indications that weather conditions have created an increased fire risk.

But with the pandemic, we could see two conflicting disasters at once. Coronavirus calls for people to stay home and far apart, while wildfires call for evacuations and firefighters working in close quarters.

Firefighters usually stay in camps while fighting wildfires. Those camps are already known for spreading upper respiratory illnesses — referred to as "camp crud."

State fire agencies are working on adjusting rules to consider heightened health risks. Some are considering waiving training for previously certified crew members and moving some training online. They're also considering increasing health screenings for crew members, and new protocols for cleaning tools and providing meals.