Washington state’s recent experience with wildfires may indicate that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will contribute to a more active season in wildfire prone areas. Washington state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said already this year there have been 263 wildfires reported in the state, the majority caused by humans. That compares to a 10-year average of 103 fires by this time. “People are staying at home,” Franz said. “They have time to work on their yards. Unfortunately, they are starting them on fire in burn piles in unprecedented numbers.” Additionally, last year’s fire season was mild, meaning there is a significant amount of fuel on the ground, Franz observed. The COVID-19 pandemic already reduced the amount of training for fire crews, and Franz said Washington can expect less assistance this year from federal agencies and other partners in battling wildfires. Meanwhile, federal and state agencies have been scrambling to plan for wildland firefighting since COVID-19 took hold in the U.S. One group recently put together broad guidelines to consider when sending crews to blazes. Released last week, the guidelines urged fire managers to use an approach called “Module of One” for crews, which recognizes the work often requires close physical contact between firefighters who travel and camp together. The guidelines suggest that crew members only have close contact with each other and stay at least 6 feet away from everyone who isn’t a member of the module, wearing masks when interacting with others. Read the article at The Seattle Times.