Fire services responding to COVID-19 see wildfire on the horizon
Meghan Housewright, Director of NFPA's Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute, has a great blog about the impacts of COVID-19 response on local fire department readiness and available PPE equipment. As she points out in the piece, “In the U.S., every 24 seconds, a fire department responds to a fire. Well before this crisis, every 1.3. seconds, a fire department responded to a call for medical aid. Our nation's first responders were 24-7 well before this national emergency.”
This got me thinking about the upcoming spring/summer “wildfire season” in many parts of the U.S. and how demands on emergency services now will impact both the preparations and response to wildfires looming on the seasonal horizon.
The San Francisco Chronicle shares that preparation for a predicted dry wildfire season is being, “crippled as the coronavirus pandemic prompts fire agencies across the West to cancel or delay programs aimed at preventing catastrophic wildfire.” These include impacts to fuel treatments, prescribed burning allowances, firefighter training, and even planning for physical distancing needs of wildfire teams.
I've seen internationally as well that the demands of COVID-19 response on services is impacting prescribed burn allowances in the UK and their ability to respond to active rural fires. In South Africa, which is in the height of its summer, wildland firefighter crews are isolating from their own families so they can remain healthy for wildfire response calls.
Meghan's blog goes into depth on the needs of emergency responders during this time. We deeply thank all of them for their service to community now and in the face of additional challenges that lie ahead.
As we navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA's response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.
Follow NFPA's FireBreak blog and you can also follow me on twitter @LucianNFPA for more international wildfire and policy related topics.