Wildland Fire Preparedness COVID-19

Adjustments to Wildland Fire Preparedness Activities for the 2020 Fire Year in Response to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic  

From Utah Forestry, Fire, and State Lands Director Brian Cottam

For the 2020 fire year, effective through December 31, 2020, we are departing from standard guidance described in the FFSL Fire Management Program Guide, UFRA certification standards, and National Wildfire Coordinating Group publications, including the WCT Administrator’s guide.  

FFSL has received and reviewed the March 21, 2020, memo issued by Leon Ben Jr., Chair of the
(federal) Fire Management Board. Division and Fire Management Program leadership have also carefully analyzed the risk of responder exposure to COVID-19 in relationship to the need to evaluate the medical, physical and training requirements of wildland firefighters as part of annual fire management preparedness. As a result, FFSL is adopting much of the federal guidance to maintain consistency with the interagency wildfire community. Included herein is additional guidance that pertains specifically to requirements here in Utah. The requirements address two categories:

  1. Firefighters new to the wildland firefighting workforce

  2. Incumbent/returning firefighters, including firefighters that have transferred from one agency to another.

Please accept my sincerest appreciation and thank you for your cooperation during the upcoming fire season and as we all deal with the impacts of COVID-19. Please contact your local FFSL Area Fire Management Officer or State Fire Management Officer Brett Oster if you have questions.

Effective Immediatly

Firefighters New to the Wildland Firefighting Workforce 

Health Screening: Obtain clearance through standard agency onboarding process.

  • FFSL new hires are required to complete the standard health-screening questionnaire. If an exam is necessary but cannot be completed due to COVID-19 impacts, additional direction will be provided by DNR Human Resources.

Work Capacity Test (WCT): Requirement is to complete any related light, moderate or arduous WCT associated with the new employee’s qualifications.

  • DO NOT reuse or share pack test vests unless at least 14 days passes between each use with the equipment “quarantined” between uses.
  • Encourage the use of weight appropriate bladder bags or individually issued fireline packs.
  • Follow all CDC AND local health department recommendations regarding social distancing. Provide hand sanitizer, tissues, other sanitary supplies deemed appropriate by the test administrator, and waste disposal (e.g., a garbage can) at the testing site.

Basic Firefighter Training: Requirement is to complete S-130, Firefighter Training; S-190, Introduction to Wildland Fire Behavior; L-180, Human Factors in the Wildland Fire Service; IS-700, An Introduction to the National Incident Management System; and ICS-100, Introduction to the Incident Command System.  Note that fire shelter proficiency is included as part of S-130 and L-180.

  • Basic Firefighter courses are available online, if necessary, or use virtual technology, such as Google Hangouts, Skype or Zoom to conduct classroom sessions with a live instructor.
    • If doing in-person classes, follow all CDC AND local health department recommendations regarding social distancing, such as group size limits and social distance of six feet between students.
  • If doing basic firefighter training via an online or virtual session, fire shelter proficiency must be accomplished separately.
  • The fire shelter proficiency portion of the training should be implemented using a standard fire shelter that no longer meets service parameters or a practice fire shelter as a one-person, one-time use.  Gloves must be worn for the shelter training.
  • If reusing shelters, ensure at least 14 days have passed between proficiency sessions with the equipment “quarantined” between uses.
  • Regardless of Basic Firefighter Training delivery—online, virtual or in-person—a field day still must be held to test skills. Follow all CDC AND local health department recommendations regarding social distancing. Provide hand sanitizer, tissues, other sanitary supplies deemed appropriate by the instructor, and waste disposal (e.g., a garbage can) at the field day and fire shelter proficiency test site.

Incumbent/Returning Firefighters and Transferred Firefighters

The Self-Assessment Health Questionnaire (SAHQ)

  • Firefighters who were previously qualified in 2019 may choose to complete a self-certification utilizing the SAHQ to communicate self-certification of health.
    • Additional instructions are found on the SAHQ document.
  • All non-qualified determinations (those that check yes in one or more boxes on the SAHQ) will be required to follow the standard risk mitigation/waiver/review process. You must have been qualified via a risk mitigation, waiver or medical officer review and be considered medically qualified before functioning in an arduous capacity.
  • The local fire department or FFSL area office will retain the SAHQ per their respective policies.

Work Capacity Tests (WCT) suspended for 2020

  • Firefighters and other employees will provide their local Fire Chief or Area Fire Management Officer the completed SAHQ. Receipt of the signed SAHQ with all questions answered “no” will serve as the waiver of the WCT for 2020 for that individual. The Area FMO will input a WCT competency based on the previously attained 2019 level (light, moderate or arduous).
  • Supervisors may exercise the option to have an employee complete the WCT if there is reasonable doubt that the employee is not capable of performing at the 2019 fitness level.
  • Firefighters wanting to change fitness level from Light or Moderate to a higher level must perform a WCT.

RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)

  • Firefighters and staff who have not completed RT-130 to date are required to complete online or virtual RT-130 training.
  • The local Area FMO will award competence upon completion of the refresher training.
  • To complete a self-study refresher utilizing the WFSTAR videos and support materials.
  • To compensate for the hands-on fire shelter training, employees are encouraged to watch the “New Generation Fire Shelter” video.
  • Predicted service information

Aviation Position Refreshers, including RT-273, RT-372, RT-373, RT-378 and N -9057

  • For employees who have not yet completed triennial aviation refresher training requirements to maintain currency, a one-year extension will be added to the current expiration date.  Currency will be identified in IQS.