COVID-19 and Wildfire: Episode 2

Aug 18, 2020 4:57:14 PM / by Chief Kim Zagaris

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a number of ongoing challenges for the fire service. Daily operations have been impacted in unprecedented ways—including increased demand for PPE on calls, social distancing requirements, and quarantining guidelines. Wildfire season is currently in full swing, and the COVID pandemic has created additional issues for federal, state, and local agencies.

Intterra and the Western Fire Chiefs Association (WFCA) recently came together to produce a series of webinars aimed at offering real solutions for fire service teams. Episode 1 focused on the COVID related challenges faced by the 2020 wildfire season, along with proper techniques for handling fire preparation, response, and recovery.

Public and first responder health concerns continue to be of the utmost concern throughout the wildfire season. As such, incident management teams have discovered new challenges in addition to the anticipated ones covered in the first webinar.    Effective application of technology, optimization of risk-based protocols and facilitation of incident response strategies are necessary to achieve mission objectives moving forward.

In the second webinar, the roundtable discussions allow fire service team members to focus on critical issues and guidance related to COVID-19 concerns during the fire season. As wildfire season continues to heat up—the world continues battling the ongoing pandemic crisis. We’re checking in and providing valuable follow-up along with additional support for the times ahead.

How Fire Service Teams are Handling the Pandemic

Our mid-season check-in will focus on a number of issues faced in the 2020 wildfire season so far including:

  • Precautions taken to address COVID throughout the wildfire season
  • Changes to original plans and issued guidance
  • Staff testing protocols and quarantine procedures
  • Data collection measures related to testing and quarantine
  • Experiences with COVID related issues
  • Resource allocation and management
  • Evacuation considerations and shelter management
  • Future challenges
  • Technology use
  • Training protocols

Fire service team members must be focused on maximizing public safety while adapting to today’s changing world.

Final Thoughts

Protecting the health and safety of the public and our firefighters continues to be our top priority. In addition to core wildfire mission responsibilities, we must address additional COVID-19 concerns and issues. Although challenging times lie ahead—we must be open-minded to change and innovation. Effective interagency coordination and strategy will provide the roadmap needed to achieve mission objectives moving forward.


For more information about how this coronavirus is affecting the fire service, you can watch the recording of our COVID-19 and Wildfire - Episode 1 webinar (hosted by WFCA and Intterra), here



Chief Kim Zagaris

Written by Chief Kim Zagaris

Chief Zagaris is Wildfire Policy and Technology Adviser at Western Fire Chiefs Association (WFCA) and former State Fire and Rescue Chief for the State of California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).