Adding insult to injury: fighting wildfires during a pandemic

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COLORADO SPRINGS — As fire departments across Colorado prepare for fire season, they are having to take into consideration COVID-19 precautions and how the virus could change how they respond and get relief during a pandemic.

“We want to keep the human resources element to a minimum,” said Battalion Chief Steve Wilch. “When we have larger fires and we have mutual age resources for out of the county. We have increased opportunity for exposure in this pandemic era.”

There are many questions that firefighters now have to ask as they prepare for fires while protecting each other from a virus. Questions like could enough resources be sent our way? How would fire camps be set up? And would there need to be a change in how evacuations centers operate? What takes priority: fire safety or a public health crisis?

“You ask a good question. In the event of a wildfire that is sweeping through our community, that has a lot of life loss potential, we have to evacuate the neighborhood,” Wilch said.

CSFD Wildland Teams are planning for worse case scenarios already.

“Base camps will look a lot different as far as collecting firefighters and their equipment. There’s going to have to be taken into consideration about how we stage people, how long they are on that fire, who we bring them in from, and do we need them? Or can we handle it with a non-human resource such as aircraft,” said Wilch.

In the event of an evacuation where a massive amount of people need to be sent to a center, CSFD, El Paso County Emergency Management, and the Red Cross are working together to make sure proper health protocols are still followed.

“We are already laying plans for facilities that we can put large amounts of people but we will have social distancing in place,” Wilch said. “So all those considerations are being weighed in right now. What facilities and also the capacities.”

Wilch said fires are preventable and it starts with remembering that fireworks are ILLEGAL in the city of Colorado Springs. Anything that takes a flame to light is NOT allowed.

CSFD crews are there for after a fire happens but there are a lot of things homeowners can do BEFORE a fire starts to prevent one from sparking.

There is a crew that comes to your house and shows you how to properly protect your home against a fire.

They focus on homes west of I-25, where houses are usually surrounded by wooded areas.

They will come out and assess things like what your deck and siding are made of and point out places where vegetation can be controlled.

They say pay attention to the first 30 feet around your home.

  • Make sure gutters, roofs and window wells are clean of debris.
  • Clear leaves/debris out from underneath your deck.
  • Cut back vegetation growing out of control.

Tap here to get in touch and set up a consultation or call 719-385-7342.

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