Local fire agencies discuss how they're dealing with the coronavirus outbreak

Posted at 12:28 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 15:28:40-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — With fire season fast approaching following a dry winter, local fire departments are chiming in with how they've been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Basically we're doing everything that people at home should be doing as much as we can with the addition of responding to emergencies," said Casey Snow, Public Information Officer with the Bakersfield Fire Department.

BFD says their responses have not been hindered by the outbreak. But that doesn't mean they're not taking steps to ensure the safety of themselves and the community. Firefighters are taking wellness surveys every day to ensure they're healthy, and they're having their temperatures taken every day.

"We have made the addition of a gown, or a Tyvek suit at times, other than that you may see us with a mask, or you may be asked by one of us to put on a mask as a patient to limit exposure."

Last week the U.S. Forest Service said they will be postponing all prescribed burns in California to prevent any effects from smoke that might further worsen conditions for those who are at risk. Prescribed burns manage the forest, eliminating brush that poses high wildfire risk. So without that effort, does that mean we're at bigger risk for bigger fires? The Kern County Fire Department says no.

"The fact that they've made this announcement shouldn't alarm the community because they no doubt have back up plans, secondary options, they will continue to move forward to make the community safe. As will the Kern County Fire Department," said Andrew Freeborn, Public Information Officer for KCFD.

KCFD is taking many of the same precautions that Bakersfield Fire is. It's unknown how long this coronavirus outbreak will last. But what if it lasts long into the fire season? Is it possible for crews to social distance while fighting a wildfire?

"In some aspects, six feet is closer than you would ever want to be, in other areas it's too far apart than you'd ever want to be. The bottom line is we're going to continue to evaluate the system, the situation, and we're going to respond however necessary for the safety of our community," Freeborn said.