Due to the close proximity in which firefighters in California are staying in, and the pollution damaging their lungs, experts have warned they may be more at risk of catching and spreading COVID-19. On top of that, experts are concerned that fires are likely to have increased damage to their lungs as the blazes rage on.
Fire of all kinds releases smoke containing carbon monoxide carbon dioxide and particulate matter (PM or soot).
If these particles make their way into the lungs, it can lead to serious health problems such as respiratory irritation and shortness of breath.
With COVID-19 being a respiratory disease, firefighters may have weakened lungs which make them more susceptible to coronavirus.
Researchers also state that firefighter fighting the wildfires may be more at risk of spreading the disease.
California fires: Firefighters more at risk of coronavirus, claims scientist
Experts are concerned that fires are likely to have increased damage to their lungs as the blazes rage on.
Camps which firefighters have been staying in all around California have been cramped, making social distancing difficult.
Luke Montrose, assistant professor of community and environmental health at Boise State University, wrote in The Conversation: “Two forces of nature are colliding in the western United States, and wildland firefighters are caught in the middle.
“Emerging research suggests that the smoke firefighters breathe on the front lines of wildfires is putting them at greater risk from the new coronavirus, with potentially lethal effects.
“At the same time, firefighting conditions make precautions such as social distancing and hand-washing difficult, increasing the chance that, once the virus enters a fire camp, it could quickly spread.
Cost of destruction
“Today, there is a growing consensus among researchers that air pollution, specifically the very fine particles called PM2.5, influences risk of respiratory illness.
“These particles are 50 times smaller than a grain of sand and can travel deep into the lungs.
“Coronavirus research now suggests that long-term exposure to PM2.5 air pollution, produced by sources including wildfires, power plants and vehicles, may make the virus particularly deadly.
“Taken together, these findings suggest that air pollution, including wood smoke, could increase the risk that wildland firefighters will develop severe COVID-19 symptoms.”
NASA satellite images have revealed 1.5 million acres, which is roughly 2,343 square miles, of California has been hit by wildfires.
According to NASA, the wildfires this year have been astonishingly vast, with 20 major fires and fire complexes actively burning across California in early September.
Data from the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite have shown the LNU Complex had burned 375,209 acres (586 square miles) by September 2, making it the third-largest wildfire by acreage in state history.
Another 100 miles south, the SCU Lightning Complex east of San Jose was the second-largest fire in state history, having burned 391,578 acres (612 square miles).