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Hollister Fire tests firefighters’ new physical distancing fire fighting

Hollister Fire firefighters
Scott Sheahen / KEYT

GAVIOTA, Calif. -- Early Thursday morning a wildland fire ignited in Gaviota near Hollister Ranch. It was the first major wildland fire in Santa Barbara County since the Cave Fire and the first during the COVID-19 health emergency.

Santa Barbara County Fire Captain Daniel Bertucelli said, "At the end of the day, a job does need to be done, and our county firefighters are willing to do whatever it takes to get that job done."

Firefighters from eight different fire stations answered the call to put out the Hollister Fire. While it's tough to maintain six-feet of distance from other firefighters, they were able to limit exposure to crews from other areas.

"They all drove here in the same crew buggy, in close quarters," said Captain Bertucelli. "So they are considered a social cluster, a social bubble. And we will try our hardest on these larger fires to have crews like that maintain that social bubble and minimize the interaction with other crews to minimize cross contamination."

Another measure added during the COVID-19 health emergency, an emphasis on preparation and cleanup. Firefighters are sterilizing their equipment before and after every call and are doing regular health checks.

"We're taking our temperatures daily, actually twice a day we're taking our temperatures," said Captain Bertucelli. "And we're doing continued self checks throughout the day for symptoms that might be indicative of COVID-19."

With the Hollister Fire being the first sizable wildfire since the pandemic started, Captain Bertucelli said it's a learning experience.

"When we do do our after action review, you know, the successes and failures always come out. And we like to capitalize on our successes and we also like to work on the failures so we can do better next time," said Captain Bertucelli.

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Scott Sheahen

Scott Sheahen is a reporter for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Scott, click here.

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