Officials work to ensure firefighter safety; some will house in hotels
REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Wildfire season is fast approaching, and now the crews that respond to fires will have to follow new social distancing protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As temperatures rise in Central Oregon, fire officials and responders are figuring out how to effectively do their jobs during this global pandemic.
PatRick Corp. in Redmond, a private firefighting contractor, is providing crews with more equipment and disinfectant tools when out in the field. Firefighters also have been provided with more vehicles, as they're only permitting four people per vehicle.
In addition to the addition of routine temperature checks, the crews are sent out with more supply kits and extra meals, while training classes have been cut from 20 participants to now only eight to 10 per session.
The president of PatRick, Rick Dice, said they've been following state guidelines and that the crews are ready to go.
"The ones that are needed to get our crews out and ready to go are slowly coming back and doing their part," Dice said. "It's been trying, you might say, but we are getting through it, as we all will."
Dice said if responders don't feel comfortable, they have the choice whether to go fight a fire or not. He said it'll also depend on the team and location of a fire whether or not hotels will be used, rather than staying at the traditional fire camps, which have also undergone physical distancing and other adjustments.