Firefighter on Cameron Peak Fire developed COVID-19, spent 39 days on a ventilator

December 1, 2020   |    10:39 a.m. MDT

Jason Phillips
Jason Phillips. Credit: Jason Phillips

After Jason Phillips worked for three weeks fighting the Cameron Peak Fire in Colorado, he then spent more than five weeks on a ventilator. Mr. Phillips is a firefighter based in Washington state and works for a wildfire contractor, Choleta Fire Services.

On August 25 he came down with COVID-19 symptoms.

“By that afternoon, my life was turned upside down. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t keep [anything] down. My whole entire body was shaking so bad, I couldn’t hold a pencil to write my own name,” Mr. Phillips said.

According to 9News, he tested negative for COVID-19 at the Poudre Valley Hospital emergency room. He left, then came back later, tested positive and was put on a ventilator in the intensive care unit. Doctors said at the time he had a 50-50 chance of surviving.

After being released from the ICU he was sent to an acute care and rehab facility. He hopes to return home this week but is partially paralyzed from the waist down.

There are reports that during the course of the Cameron Peak Fire dozens of personnel were quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.

In early November a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service said 219 of their firefighters had tested positive for COVID-19 this year. CAL FIRE said at the time 141 of their employees had tested positive.

Since it started August 13, 2020 the Cameron Peak Fire, the largest in the recorded history of Colorado, has burned 208,913 acres, destroyed 444 structures, and has cost over $133 million to suppress. There are still 271 personnel assigned including 3 hand crews, 10 engines, and 1 helicopter.

Map of Cameron Peak Fire
Map of Cameron Peak Fire, December 1, 2020. NIFC.

Update at 4:10 p.m. MDT December 1, 2020. This article originally mentioned that Mr. Phillips was a U.S. Forest Service firefighter, based on reporting by 9News. Subsequently, we found that he was not a USFS employee and works for a contractor, Choleta, instead. 9News will be editing their article.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

3 thoughts on “Firefighter on Cameron Peak Fire developed COVID-19, spent 39 days on a ventilator”

    1. Doesn’t say why he is paralyzed???
      My son was on a ventilator for 10 weeks. I was on one for a week. His hospital bill’s gotta be obscene.
      Next stop, gofundme.


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