▶️ Fire base camps take extra precautions to combat COVID spread

By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY

Normally a fire base camp would be bustling with hundreds of firefighters. But in the era of COVID, even that has changed.

Bryan Hunt is the health liaison for the P-515 and Lionshead fire crews, and these days, much of his job focuses on COVID-19 safety.

A demonstration led by Hunt Wednesday afternoon showed firefighters how to dress and interact with someone who may have COVID-19 while working.

It’s a new experience compared to past fire seasons.

“We would do that if someone were sick on the line,” Hunt said. “We have a medical unit out on the line also and they would dress and treat a patient the same way.”

In a normal wildfire season, the 750 firefighters currently battling the two fires on the Warm Springs Reservation would all be at the fire camp inside the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

“The element of COVID now, everyone has to focus on separation,” Hunt said.

“We have about 675 people staying at a remote spike camp, and that’s to protect communities from exposure to all the incoming firefighters,” said Incident Commander Nate Lefevre. “It also keeps them closer to the work site.”

Different sleeping arrangements, a new process of checking in, and temperatures taken each day have become the new normal for crews on the frontlines.

“Keeping that social distancing and staying in contact with the firefighters is a daily challenge,” Lefevre said.

“Just having that extra layer of activities to do, everyone’s required to wash their hands, have a fresh mask,” said Hunt. “They have to be screened in the morning before going to their briefs. It’s good for their health and welfare, but it just adds an extra layer of cumbersome.”

And while things are certainly more challenging, the work continues.

“Many of the other fires in the region are wrapping up,” said Lefevre. “And we’re starting to see those crews coming to us to help us with our efforts here.”

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