Wildfires and COVID-19

Integrated Fire SystemsFire & Life Safety Updates

How COVID-19 will Affect California’s Wildfires

On Wednesday May 13th, 2020 California Governor Gavin Newsom held his daily press conference with California Fire Chief Thom Porter live from the Cameron Park Fire Department in El Dorado County. During this press conference he spoke about how we are entering fire season and how due to COVID-19 this year’s wildfires will bring on different health and safety concerns than ever before.

2020 Fire Season

As we begin fire season in California, the numbers are not on our side. We have had a below average year of precipitation and our snow pack is substantially below where it was last year. These two factors mean that we are looking forward to hot and dry summer that can lead to devastating wild fires.

California is already experiencing a growing rate of fires compared to last year. During the press conference Governor Gavin Newsom said that between, “January to May 10th last year [2019] we had 675 wildfires” and “from January to May 10th this year [2020] we had 1135 wildfires”. That is roughly a 60% increase.

Fire Season and COVID-19

COVID-19 brings new challenges to this year’s fire season. We are in a new age of social distancing which does not bode well when it comes to fire evacuations. It seems like each year a wildfire devastates at least one community in California. During this time, many of those communities residents seek shelter in a fire evacuation center.

These centers are great because they give displaced people a place to go, but they can be a hot bed for disease spread. In these evacuation centers there are often hundreds of people in close proximity of each other. In the past this close proximity has been an issue with diseases. Evacuation centers in 2018 had an issue with norovirus spreading throughout evacuation centers.

Now with this year’s outbreak of COVID-19 many people are worried about how these evacuation centers would be able to follow the states social distancing guidelines. At this time the State of California is looking into solutions such as using hotel rooms for evacuated families or creating a way to isolate people in evacuation shelters. The state is also looking into ways to alert people of fires sooner. This could mean earlier evacuations to give people time to find somewhere safe to go instead of seeking shelter at an evacuation center.

Helpful Sources

If you want more information about California’s wild fires you can:

-The IFS Team