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Firefighters Forced To Social Distance During Pandemic

MIDWAY, Utah – Battling a wildfire includes many challenges such as terrain, weather, and right now, social distancing because of the pandemic.

Extra coordination was underway as crews battled the Saddle Fire near Midway, which included trying to figure how to keep firefighters properly spaced.

Kait Webb with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands said fire managers prepared for this problem.

“We’ve had to do a lot of preseason trainings and gatherings virtually,” Webb said. “We are having to rethink the way that we have our fire camps and our briefings in the mornings, so we’ve been implementing a lot of new protocols.”

Changes were in effect at the fire camp too, like separate areas for tents and more disinfecting, especially at mealtimes.

Each fire crew even has individually assigned port-a-potties.

Firefighters from Utah County were assigned a specific portapotty while helping battle the Saddle Fire in Wasatch County.

Responding departments were making sure they do not cross paths while practicing their own form of social distancing as they put down flames.

“It’s been a challenge that we’ve done a lot of planning for it on the front end of the season, and we’re really looking forward to see how that rolls out,” Webb said. “But yeah, it’s presented a challenge, and we’re coming up with unique ways to confront that.”

About a dozen homeowners were still evacuated because of the Saddle Fire, which has burned around 650 acres and was 20% contained as of Wednesday afternoon.

It was the fourth fire in the area in the past week and a juvenile was in custody and talking with investigators about the blazes.

Over 150 people and two helicopter crews were fighting the fire. Officials also reminded the public to not fly drones in the area.


Coronavirus Resources

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

How To Get Help

If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.

Additional Resources

If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at consumerprotection@utah.gov.

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