GRASS VALLEY (CBS13) – The pandemic is fanning a different flame for firefighters. It’s been a busy start to fire season with 96% of CalFire crews on the front lines. Already fighting several fires across the state, they’re also up against COVID-19.
There’s a new kind of base camp this fire season where firefighters hunker down. These are now in a much larger area like the Nevada County Fairgrounds so crews can spread out and stay socially distanced.
Captain Eric Ayers showed CBS13 where crews regroup, get some food, rest and then head back out to knock down the flames once again. But the routine is different in the middle of a pandemic.
“COVID, flu-like symptoms, anything that is related that could actually spread in a fire camp we have to take precautions not to spread it,” said Capt. Ayers.
Capt. Jesse Gomez with the Selma Fire Department is at another camp set up at the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga. He says there are usually 10 firefighters to a trailer, now there’s half that or less. Some are even stationed in hotels and everyone stays with the same smaller group.
“We’re getting our temperatures checked, we’re all wearing masks. It’s a lot different, I was wondering how firefighting season was going to be and I’m getting first-hand how it is,” said Capt. Gomez.
The pandemic is undoubtedly piling on a new set of parameters, but nothing firefighters aren’t willing to take on.
“All of us as public safety are very proud to do what we do and take care of one another and especially during a pandemic like this, it’s more of us stepping up,” said Capt. Gomez.
“As we come into the height of fire season, and we have a long season to go, we do not want our personnel to get sick,” said Capt. Ayers.