Fresno Fire Department stretched thin during COVID-19 pandemic

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FRESNO, Calif. — Soaring temperatures means more wildfires and strained resources. In the age of COVID-19, sharing manpower has its own risk.

“We’ve established a new normal that fire season pretty much has become year around for the state,” said Rich Cabral, Deputy Chief of the Fresno Fire Department.

The Fresno Fire Department has just under 300 firefighters. In a typical year, the department can send up to 30 firefighters on assignment to help other counties in need.

“We have fires throughout the state, from northern California on through southern California, where the Office of Emergency Services has requested through mutual aid assistance by local government, such as the City of Fresno,” explains Cabral.

During an extraordinary year like the one we’re experiencing now, they had to cut that number in half due to COVID-19 concerns. They’re currently only allowing 15 firefighters to send on assignment.

“We’re able to handle it right now,” Cabral explains. “But we have this added challenge of COVID-19 that has a concern for us that we can ensure that we have people who are healthy, able to come into work, to provide services for the City of Fresno, all the while assisting those other agencies in these large types of fires.”

Cabral also says that fires in Fresno County are up dramatically.

“We have a lot of fire activity here in the City of Fresno. That goes into my thought process in terms of being conservative with regards in allowing for our individuals to go out to these types of incidents,” explains Cabral.

He also added that while the Fresno Fire Department continues to fight fires, they need help from the community to battle this virus.

“I think we need the public’s assistance in this, in fighting COVID and flattening out this curve that we’re seeing. We’re seeing a significant number of cases of COVID here in the valley and if we’re ever to open up, we’ve gotta get that down,” Cabral added.

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