People working on wildfires need to be vigilant about the spread of infectious diseases like coronaviruses (shown above). The Fire Management Board released Interim Guidance for Prevention of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) During Wildland Fire Operations. (CDC/Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS)
The Department of the Interior continues to fulfill its firefighting mission during the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure that our ability to respond to wildfires over the coming months remains effective, we're working with our interagency partners to:
Hire the firefighters we need.
DOI has a full complement of approximately 4,500 firefighters and administrative staff to support wildfire response this year. Interim guidance is enabling the efficient clearance and remote onboarding of new and returning employees.
Protect our firefighters & mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Firefighter safety is our top priority. Firefighters should follow the recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stay healthy and reduce the spread of illness. The CDC also developed specific FAQs for wildland firefighters. A team of medical experts from the Department of the Interior, USDA Forest Service, the CDC, and state public health representatives has developed COVID-19 safety guidelines for wildfire operations as well as recommendations for firefighter screening, testing, and social distancing.
Prepare for outbreaks at incidents.
People working on incidents like wildfires need to be vigilant about the spread of infectious disease. The National Wildfire Coordinating Group released new Infectious Disease Guidance for wildland fires so that incident management teams and firefighters can plan for, recognize, and respond to outbreaks if they arise. The National Wildfire Coordinating Group also developed new standards for aviation in response to the pandemic.
Adapt wildfire response plans.
To ensure the highest degree of readiness, the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group assigned three Area Command Teams to work with partners at all levels in the fire community to develop regional guidance and best practices for wildfire response during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plans inform local decision-making and are updated as new COVID-19 mitigation measures are developed.
Continue our work reducing wildfire risk.
Reducing wildfire risk through fuels management remains an essential activity for the Department of the Interior. We're also taking actions to reduce the impact of smoke from prescribed fires on individuals and communities, recognizing its potential effect on those who have contracted COVID-19 or who may be at risk.
Monitor new developments.
Public health direction is continually evolving. The interagency wildland fire management community continues to assess risks, update guidance, and develop needed recommendations and protocols to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on firefighters and the public.