Officials gear up for fire season amid pandemic

The Douglas Forest Protective Association has had to make adjustments to their hiring and training process to align with social distancing.

Posted: May 11, 2020 7:08 PM

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- Local fire officials are hard at work preparing for wildfire season despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kyle Reed, the fire prevention specialist for the Douglas Forest Protective Association, said they’ve had to make adjustments to their hiring and training process to align with social distancing.

“(We’re looking at) smaller class sizes than we’ve done in the past,” said Reed. “Or utilize technology where we can do some training online.”

Officials with the Oregon Department of Forestry said they’re still trying to figure out how to run the physical training portion.

“Since the field component cannot be done, we’ll have to do more on-purpose, on-the-job training in a physically distanced environment,” said Marcus Kauffman with ODF.

Right now, DFPA has 35 firefighters on staff. However, Reed said they hope to reach 120 firefighters for the summer.

He said they’re heavily leaning on their local firefighters this year because DFPA is considering limiting the use of out-of-town firefighters to help fight large fires.

He said that will possibly create crew shortages on the scene.

“We’ve brought people in from all over the country,” said Reed. "Even Canada, Australia, in other places to help with those fires. That’s not a possibility this year.”

In addition to hiring, Reed said they’re discussing how fire camps will look due to social distancing.

He said they’re considering breaking up the firefighters into smaller camps, instead of allowing them to live in a large camp.

He said they want to reduce direct exposure as much as possible.

“We’re moving away from the traditional fire camp,” said Reed. “Meals out of a kitchen to packaged stuff instead.”

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