US Plans Reimagine Fighting Wildfires Amid Crews' Virus Risk

May 11, 2020

New plans offer a national reimagining of how to fight wildfires amid the risk of the coronavirus spreading through crews.

In this Aug. 27, 2015 file photo firefighters from the University of Alaska (Fairbanks) watch as a wildfire slowly creeps toward their fire break near Chelan, Wash. Newly released national plans for fighting wildfires during the coronavirus pandemic are hundreds of pages long but don't offer many details on how fire managers will get access to COVID-19 tests or exactly who will decide when a crew needs to enter quarantine.
Credit AP Photo/Elaine Thompson,File

But it's not clear how officials will get the testing and equipment needed to keep firefighters safe in what’s expected to be a difficult fire season. A U.S. group last week released broad guidelines to consider when sending crews to blazes. Different parts of the country can tailor the guidelines, which include having firefighters camp in smaller groups and keeping crews separated. A letter from lawmakers says the U.S. Forest Service determined that large fire camps could have a disproportionately high mortality rate in worst-case scenarios.