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California firefighters brace for raging flames and a burgeoning pandemic

August 2, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

With temperatures soaring and winds gusting, California firefighters may soon face their first significant battle against wildland blazes, but they will also have to contend with the uncertain terrain caused by the coronavirus.

Under Covid-19 safety procedures, California fire officials tell CNN they will reduce the size of usually bustling base camps -- where hundreds of engines from city, state and federal agencies gather under mutual aid agreements to fight major blazes.

Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen says he is equipped to send strike teams -- five three-person engines and two managers -- to wildland fires throughout California without relying on a base camp.

Scott says if a firefighter on a wildland blaze tests positive for Covid-19, plans are being devised to demobilize an engine crew or entire strike team from the fire line and place them in quarantine.

"Being a firefighter can be an unhealthy job, and a lot of us get what we call camp crud, which is kind of like a cough or just not feeling well," said Spelman.

As of July 10, there were 1,990 incarcerated firefighters housed in conservation camps, according to Aaron Francis, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections.

To compensate for the loss, and for the loss of inmate fire crews placed on prison lockdowns due to the virus, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced recently that California will hire 858 new seasonal firefighters.

During the 2017 Thomas Fire, which burned more than 281,000 acres, Lorenzen says he saw up to 400 firefighters attend base camp briefings.

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