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State preparing for wildfire season amid coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 6:12 AM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 09:12:41-04

PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management is implementing a COVID-19 mitigation plan ahead of what could be another active wildfire season.

Tiffany Davila, a spokesperson for the department, told ABC15 they expect conditions to be similar to last year’s wildfire season, which torched approximately 400,000-acres across the state.

“The amount of rain that we had last winter just added to the excessive amount of grass that was already there,” she said. “[The vegetation] just, kind of, doubled in those areas.”

Davila said crews are increasing patrols and prepositioning firefighters in high-risk fire areas, including spots along the US-60 corridor.

“That will help us get to a fire faster should one start in that area and keep the number of resources down,” she said. Resource management will be crucial this year given the coronavirus pandemic and concerns over hundreds — if not, thousands — of firefighters responding to any one area. Davila said officials created a COVID-19 mitigation plan in an effort to keep firefighters healthy.
“That will help us get to a fire faster should one start in that area and keep the number of resources down,” she said. Resource management will be crucial this year given the coronavirus pandemic and concerns over hundreds — if not, thousands — of firefighters responding to any one area. Davila said officials created a COVID-19 mitigation plan in an effort to keep firefighters healthy.
The plan “touches on everything from isolation of our state dispatchers down to the boots on the ground,” she said, addressing “what we’re going to do with firefighters in camp — how we’re going to be able to safely separate them.”

She said crews may be depending on more aircraft to fight flames than in years past to reduce the number of hand crews on the ground. There may also be changes to how firefighters are spaced out at command posts and an elimination of “buffet-style” meal services.

Above all else, Davila said she wants to remind the public to stay “extra vigilant.”

“We need to make sure our firefighters are staying safe and healthy so that they can get up every morning and provide the suppression efforts.”