“PPE May Not Fully Virus-Protect Wildfire Crews: Researchers”

“Personal protective equipment may not be sufficient to protect firefighters battling wildfires from Covid-19 because unavoidable smoke inhalation may increase their disease risk, researchers say.

The research is ongoing as Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, calls on federal agencies to ensure that firefighters battling this summer’s wildfires have enough face masks and other PPE to protect themselves from the new coronavirus.

“Fire crews often work in teams of 20 individuals and share eating and bedding space in camps of hundreds. They will spend weeks working in difficult terrain while breathing air degraded by wildfire smoke,” Murkowski wrote in her May 8 letter urging four federal wildfire and emergency response agencies to provide an adequate supply of PPE to firefighters.

Smoke-filled air is a hazard to firefighters because it increases the risk of complications associated with Covid-19, said Chiara Bellini, a bioengineering professor at Northeastern University in Boston.”

Bobby Magill reports for Bloomberg Environment May 12, 2020.