Covid affects summer firefighting efforts in Washington

Oct 4, 2021

The state doesn't know yet how many of its wildland firefighters will refuse to be vaccinated.
Credit Courtesy of Inciweb

Washington’s Covid vaccine mandate for state employees goes into effect two weeks from today. Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz says her agency is still unsure how much of its workforce will choose to leave rather than get shots.

She says they’re still working to process applications for vaccine exemption applications.

Franz says state officials did such a good job setting up and enforcing health protocols last summer that the spread of the virus in fire camps was not a problem in 2020.

“None of our firefighters were impacted by Covid and that was even before the vaccines were in place. The Delta variant created a whole new challenge for us. We saw an increasing number of not only our own firefighters, but local and federal firefighters that were impacted by Covid," she said.

During such a busy fire season in the West, Franz says the competition was fierce to get traveling out-of-state fire teams to come to Washington. She says sometimes the agency had to send an entire crew back after one or two team members tested positive for Covid.