firefighter fighting flames

How Coronavirus is Affecting Fire Prevention Efforts

The coronavirus has disrupted industries, altered lives, and put a hold on non-essential activities, including preventive measures for wildfires. Every year, local, state, and federal fire agencies work at making areas safer for wildfire season. These safety measures include prescribed burns, and clearing brush and undergrowth but due to the coronavirus outbreak, the US Forest Service put a halt on all fire management activities back in March.

Much of northern California’s forests are federally managed and without preventative measures, they will be extremely vulnerable to fast-moving wildfires. In response to the US Forest Service halting activities, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an Emergency Proclamation for CAL FIRE to go ahead with 35 priority projects in order to mitigate fire risk. These projects include clearing vegetation, removing dead trees, creating community defensible space and fuel breaks.

While California is moving ahead with fire suppression initiatives, the pause in federally-managed efforts will disrupt an aggressive plan to thin California’s overgrown forests with prescribed burns. Malcolm North, a professor of plant sciences at UC Davis who works with the U.S. Forest Service in the Sierra Nevadas, told the SF Chronicle, “A lot of people were looking forward to this year being a ramping up of prescribed fire. My concern now is that we’re going to be more reactive to fire than proactive.”

Another issue that the coronavirus is posing is the idea of having many firefighters together in a fire camp this summer. Fire camps are already susceptible to virus spread, with hotshot crews and out-of-town departments all eating and sleeping near one another when they aren’t fighting the blaze. While firefighters attempt to follow social distancing guidelines in the event of a wildfire, it may be impossible to stay that far apart.

Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told Time Magazine, “It has to be handled on a case-by-case basis because every incident is different. We rely on each individual to be responsible, and we have safety officers on the teams. We will meet those needs as they come.”

The U.S. Forest Service is working on releasing a coronavirus plan that will outline funding and updated social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but for now, local municipalities and homeowners themselves will need to take matters into their own hands, especially those who live in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) where fire outbreak is inevitable.

Ember Defense | Helping Your Home Protect Itself

The coronavirus has put a hold on the way agencies prepare for fires. Lack of federal funding will also affect firefighting efforts, leaving the work to local officials and homeowners. That’s why the best thing to do is to put fire-safe measures in place before it’s too late. By installing ember-blocking vents, gutter guards, and an exterior sprinkler you will be minimizing the risk of your home igniting in the face of a wildfire.

Fire season is upon us and odds are, this one will be fierce and hectic. Ember Defense can make sure your home is prepared. Call today for an evaluation.

*note that due to coronavirus precautions, Ember Defense will conduct all evaluations from outside the home and will be able to do so with no person-to-person contact. Though we are also practicing social distancing, we can still help protect your home from wildfire.