Klickitat County successfully responded to the counties first large fire during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release from Klickitat County Emergency Operations Center. Early preparation was key to their success, the release stated.

Klickitat County Public Health Department (PHD) and Klickitat County Department of Emergency Management (DEM) representatives attended the initial fire briefing and provided information about local resources such as personal protective equipment, the isolation and quarantine shelter and hospital availability. This allowed the crews to understand what was available. The PHD reviewed “Fire’s Best Practices for COVID,” which was found to be a solid plan that would lower the risks of a COVID outbreak. Both PHD and DEM attended daily Cooperator’s Meetings for updates as well as daily Planning Meetings. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) kept officials and stakeholders updated.

Local fire districts, local DNR and Local Cooperators stopped the fire’s growth on the first evening. From there forward, they increased containment and extinguished hotspots as they appeared. Some of the changes that were made to address the health concerns were using physical distancing measures such as individual meals, separated work areas and working in groups and did not intermingle with other groups, as well as wearing masks when physical distancing was not possible. These measures helped crews stay healthy while allowing them to focus on the fire, the release stated.

Fire danger through August is high and can more fires are anticipated.

The release stated, “Keep in mind that fires even far away can drastically increase the smoke in our county and make it harder to breathe for those who have underlying conditions. If you are unable to wear your mask due to breathing conditions and are in need of going to the store, try calling the store to see if they offer a curbside pickup option. COVID cases are still on the rise. Keep taking all the health precautions seriously and reduce your risk and those around you.”

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