June 18, 2020

Training for 2020 Fire Season

Professional Private Wildland Fire Services Prioritize Safety, Readiness in Training for 2020 Fire Season

[Mill City, Ore. – June 18, 2020] – The 2020 wildfire season is already underway in much of the western United States. The Professional Private Wildland Fire Service (PPWFS) companies have adapted their training and preparation to prioritize COVID-19 safety procedures and ensure their crews’ readiness.

PPWFS, many of which are members of the National Wildfire Suppression Association (NWSA), provide the “boots on the ground” response to wildfires. The PPWFS are primarily small businesses that create jobs in rural areas of the United States.

“We took action early,” says Heidi Cleveland, wildland fire operations director at Miller Timber Services, Inc. of Philomath, Ore. “That has allowed us to move through the processes needed and adapt in real time to rapidly changing conditions.”

Hands-on training that mimics real-world fire scenarios deliver the most effective teaching. NWSA member companies and trainers have modified field training and created smaller class sizes to allow for social distancing. Refresher courses for returning firefighters are being done virtually in many cases.

“As emergency service providers, our firefighters see their role as essential to keeping communities safe,” adds Cleveland. “Our crew and squad bosses view COVID-19 protocol as an added layer to that work; they take the need to include additional measures to mitigate the risk of spread very seriously.”

In the absence of specific, consistent guidelines from federal and state agencies, NWSA members have sought expert recommendations to aid in their training and preparation efforts. NWSA anticipates our crews will be treated as a “family unit” while on the fires. Social distancing will be done as deemed necessary by the fire teams in charge of response to a given fire.

“We have worked on providing our membership as much real-time information as possible on guidelines issues by the Centers for Disease Control, Small Business Association, U.S. Department of Labor and other health authorities,” says Debbie Miley, National Wildfire Suppression Association’s executive director. “We have also identified potential PPE vendors for member companies to help keep firefighters safe.”

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