Three U.S. Senators sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence today urging the Coronavirus Task Force to help secure personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing kits for firefighters and federal law enforcement personnel tasked with wildfire response.
Below are excerpts from the letter crafted by Senators Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; Joe Manchin, West Virginia; and Tom Udall, New Mexico.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“Firefighters and fire support staff put their lives on the line every day to protect us, and we need to make every effort to protect them from this virus, so they can safely fight fires and return to their families when the fires are out.”
Murkowski is Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. Manchin is the Ranking Member of the committee and Udall is Ranking Member on the Appropriations Subcommittee.