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The Dual Threat of Wildfires and Coronavirus in California

As drought conditions continue, the state is preparing for the possibility that the two dangerous public health and safety threats will overlap.
March 26, 2020, 9am PDT | Camille Fink
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Jeff Turner

"Northern California may still be grappling with the novel coronavirus outbreak when it begins to face the more familiar threat of dangerous wildfires, and emergency officials are already contemplating that possibility," writes J.D. Morris.

Dry conditions and little precipitation in recent months point to the possibility of a difficult wildfire season, says Morris. If the coronavirus is still a public health crisis during a wildfire, evacuation and sheltering procedures could be complicated. In addition, poor air quality from wildfires and an overtaxed healthcare system could complicate efforts to deal with both issues.

Some California communities are planning ahead for this scenario and looking to solutions to keep people separated and high-risk evacuees protected, says Morris. "Instead of cramming dozens of people on cots in an open space, [Sonoma County] might instead split evacuees into smaller groups spread across classrooms in a school, [Chris] Godley said. Hotels could also become shelters."

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Published on Monday, March 16, 2020 in San Francisco Chronicle
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