LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. – A forward operating base for the Cameron Peak Fire was shut down after a firefighter battling the blaze tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, potentially exposing more than 30 other people at the base, according to officials with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.
The forward operating base, or FOB, was locked down and secured Wednesday night under the authority of the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment due to the potential exposure of 184 personnel to the positive individual, the incident management team said in a news release.
“Today, however, there is reasonable belief that only 25 people had direct contact and nine others had possible contact,” according to the release.
The firefighter, who tested positive on Sept. 1, had just arrived at the FOB for the night when he felt ill, according to officials, who said it’s possible some of the 25 were not in contact long enough to be considered exposed per county guidelines.
In all, four firefighters out of 850 have tested positive for the new respiratory disease. None have come into close contact with the local community, the incident management team said.
The Colorado National Guard Rapid Response Team was deployed and will be conduct testing. Those who test positive will be relocated and isolated per the county’s guidelines, the incident management said, adding those who may have been exposed will be tested, relocated and quarantined as well. Testing will take place until negative tests meet the county’s criteria, at which point the personnel will be released from quarantine. Meanwhile, during the 24-hour waiting period for results, the affected personnel will be in what officials are calling “working quarantine,” meaning they will continue to work on the fire in small groups using all safe practices available. If their tests come back negative, fire officials said, the crews will be returned to the fire line.
"We have a responsibility to this community and to other states to ensure that our people are healthy before we send them home,” Incident Commander Bea Day said in a prepared statement. “We know that keeping anyone isolated or quarantined won’t be popular, but it's the right thing to do. It’s due to the exceptionally good social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing practices at the FOB, that this wasn’t worse."
Fire officials said those in quarantine or isolation will be cared for with daily check-ins from medical personnel, food and toiletry items delivered and other needs taken care of by Cameron Peak Fire officials.
The cleaning and sterilization of the FOB will be done after all effected personnel have left so the base will be operational again, officials said.
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