Fire Crews Change Firefighting Strategies Amid Coronavirus

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As temperatures slowly ramp up, so do the potential dangers to firefighters who now have to deal with fire and the threat of the coronavirus. 

San Jose firefighters responded to three house fires Tuesday morning including one in the Willow Glen neighborhood. They fought the flames wearing full, cumbersome PPE and maintaining social distance between themselves and victims. 

“Now we have to assume everybody is contagious,” said SJPD Battalion Chief Rob Brown. “So pretty much every call we go on now we’re having to wear our protective gear.”

The San Jose Fire Department has been providing new videos to firefighters to help them adjust to the new procedures.

After an initial rash of cases, the rate in SJPD has slowed considerably.

“Our crews are really aware of everything and they’re making good decisions out there,” Brown said. “They might look a little different when they come into your house now.”

Aerial firefighting is going to be even more crucial on wildfires and any kind of rural terrain, but coronavirus measures are more difficult in the air where there is almost no room for social distancing or the extra protective equipment. 

“Especially with the spinning rotor and not losing grip of that so it doesn’t get caught up in our rotor system or sucked into our engines,” said Cal Fire Helitack Battalion Chief Mike Mathiesen. “So it’s going to take some time to get used to.”

Another pressure hovering over all first responders is staying healthy. The Helitack unit has 15 highly-trained members and it’s very difficult to replace anyone who gets sick which in turn impacts the efficiency of firefighting.

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