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Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

Senators urge COVID-19 task force to provide PPE, testing for firefighters battling wildfires

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A group of U.S. Senators recently called on the Trump administration officials to help secure personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits for firefighters and federal law enforcement personnel charged with fighting wildfires.

“Peak fire season comes closer every day. However, it is our understanding that the supply of PPE in the Federal interagency inventories does not meet the expected need, and firefighters are having trouble acquiring additional PPE on their own. We also understand that many of the available testing methods may not be conducive for wide-scale use,” Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Tom Udall (D-NM) wrote in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, who heads up the Coronavirus Task Force.

Murkowski is chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (ENR) and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. Manchin is the ranking member of ENR, and Udall is ranking member on the Appropriations Subcommittee.

“We ask that resources be used to develop and support an effective system of COVID-19 testing tailored to protecting firefighter health and maintaining the cohesiveness of federal wildland fire response.,” they added in the letter to Pence. “Wildland fires often occur in rural and remote areas, and already-taxed rural and tribal health services should not be expected to have the resources to manage COVID-19 cases coming from an active fire camp or when crews arrive in their hometowns after demobilizing from a fire.”

They added that firefighters and fire support staff put their lives on the line to protect Americans, so every effort needs to be made to protect them so they can safely fight fires.