California Faces a Perilous Fire Season as Coronavirus Threatens Firefighters

Jacquie Cadorette
May 10, 2020 - 12:49 pm

    Forecasters are predicting a "higher-than-normal" fire risk for the fire season in Northern California this year while coronavirus continues to threaten firefighters.

    Southern Californial faces its usual risk of significant burning, the Los Angeles Times reports.

    While wildfire smoke impairs a firefighter's immune system, county officials are urging for a different approach to firefighting that would rely mostly on aircrafts to extinguish the flames. At the same time, all fires must be extinguished promptly to cut down on smoke in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

    "Given the unprecedented conditions of this fire season, it is essential to utilize federal resources for immediate wildfire suppression to the greatest extent possible," Sen. Lisa Murkowski wrote to the departments of Interior and Agriculture. 

    Typically, in recent decades, a natural approach to firefighting has been taken where fires that don't pose a threat are allowed to expand and extinguish naturally. Now, officials are calling for the prompt addressing of all fires, regardless of threat. 

    "Speaking across the board, this is a game changer with COVID-19. It's going to have to be an 'everybody's hands on deck' appraoch to this," spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Mike Mohler said. 

    Coronavirus has already reduced the number of available firefighters in California. 

    Further fire safety precautions are in the hands of the residents. "It's going to be really important for our citizens to do the proper brush clearnce," Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. 

    To cut back on coronavirus transmission among firefighters, officials are working to adjust the layout at fire base camps.