Many “unprecedented” situations occurred throughout 2020, including wildfire season. In addition to the busy wildfire season, firefighters have also had to ensure their safety against COVID-19. Although crews took the necessary precautions, such as wearing masks and social distancing, during fire response, coronavirus cases still popped up.
The worldwide pandemic posed many complications with fire response this season. While there was the thought that human-caused fires may be less with stay at home orders in place, people were not allowed to gather in order to complete vegetation-management projects. In some instances, resources were short because of sick firefighters and mandatory quarantines. Safely housing firefighters in crowded base camps and keeping residents safe at evacuation centers was another obstacle this season.
Coronavirus and the Cameron Peak Fire
Unfortunately, it seems as if coronavirus was unavoidable, and crews suffered through COVID-19 outbreaks during fire response. One notable outbreak was on the Cameron Peak Fire in Larimer County, Colorado. The Cameron Peak Fire set a couple records this year. The fire was 208,913 acres, the largest recorded in Colorado history. Also, it has one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the county, with 42 confirmed cases. The outbreak began on August 25 and continued through October.
Prevention and Response
Prevention efforts at base camp included daily temperature checks, coronavirus screening, and hand-washing stations. The COVID surge on the Cameron Peak Fire was potentially due to mutual aid efforts, as emergency personnel joined in on response from other regions of the country. In response to the outbreak, individuals with positive COVID-19 tests isolated and received the necessary medical care. Also, a newly created coronavirus unit helped support and isolate positive-tested people. All CDC and Larimer County guidelines were followed, but the unfortunate still occurred. Residents in evacuations took similar precautions, and luckily, there were no reported outbreaks.