NewsLocal News


Social distancing during wildfire season

Posted at 9:55 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 23:55:44-04

MIDWAY, Utah – The effort to battle the Saddle Fire is offering a first look at the precautions crews are taking to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 among first responders.

Fires don’t allow for social distancing. That is why several safety measures are being implemented at the base camp where firefighters gather before and after their shifts.

“It’s been a new and unique challenge. We are adapting,” said Kait Webb with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “There’s been numerous people who have been planning ahead of time.”

A walk through the camp area at Midway Elementary School reveals markers on the pavement to promote social distancing in the food line. Masks and gloves are readily available for firefighters to use. Hand washing stations are numerous and lined up six feet apart. Bathroom usage is also being modified.

“We space them [bathrooms] out a lot further than we usually designate them,” Webb said. “We have also designated specific port-a-potties for each different crew or engine. We are trying to keep all the engine modules and crews separate as much as possible to minimize the potential for spread.”

During wildfire season, base camps can’t afford an outbreak of the highly contagious virus.

“It’s vital that we keep our firefighters healthy, safe and able to respond,” Webb said. “They are a crucial resource here in Utah and nationwide.”

These social distancing measures are expected to be in place throughout the remainder of the 2020 fire season.

“We are anticipating the duration of the summer looking very different than in the past,” Webb said.