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Wildfire Crews Adjust Training Because Of Covid

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Covid has had at least some effect on wildfire training in eastern Washington this spring.

In Fire District 9 in north Spokane County, firefighters are getting their wildfire refresher courses via video, rather than the usual in person classes. But there’s only so much you can do by watching a screen, says Chief Jack Cates. Field training can only done in the field.

“There’s no social distancing and there are no masks. When our crews are doing those revolutions, they’re working hard and they can’t have that restriction on their breathing ability," he said.

Cates says firefighters have been urged to limit their contact with the outside world to two families.

“Their family at home and their family at work. As long as they’re limiting their contact to eight or nine people, their chances of exposure go down," he said.

Cates says firefighters work only three or four to a shift, so they can stay well isolated at work. And he says they’re well protected with personal protective equipment when they go on medical runs.

Cates says, on big fires, leaders may try to keep their people together in their teams and not allow much mixing of crews from different agencies.