How coronavirus pandemic will impact firefighting this wildfire season in California

This fire season, firefighters in California will face a unique challenge: responding to a disaster while also trying to protect themselves from a pandemic.

"We can have one large incident in California that can have up to six, maybe seven thousand personnel assigned," CalFire deputy director Mike Mohler told AccuWeather.

This year, how those large groups travel, eat and sleep will likely be much different to reduce the risk of firefighters catching or spreading COVID-19.

Officials with the National Interagency Fire Center and CalFire say they're ready, both sharing new recommendations to keep firefighters spaced apart when possible.

"We will do everything we can in our power to maybe have multiple base camps to spread the people assigned to [each fire]," Mohler said.

"We're going to have to use a combination of social distancing and standard face masks to prevent COVID spread during fire suppression," added Jennifer Gardetto with the National Interagency Fire Center.

Officials with the American Red Cross are also overhauling plans for shelters, explaining there will be more distance between cots and meals will be served differently to keep people out of lines. The organization's plans also call for health screenings at the shelters and ramped-up cleaning.

"Right now, I'd ask the public to be our partners. We need you to prepare just as we are. Be ready for any type of emergency," Mohler added.
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