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Modeling the systemic risks of COVID-19 on the wildland firefighting workforce


Jude Bayham
Jacob Dilliott
Andrea G. Buchwald



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Rocky Mountain Research Station


Scientific Reports. 12: 8320.


Wildfire management in the US relies on a complex nationwide network of shared resources that are allocated based on regional need. While this network bolsters firefighting capacity, it may also provide pathways for transmission of infectious diseases between fire sites. In this manuscript, we review a first attempt at building an epidemiological model adapted to the interconnected fire system, with the aims of supporting prevention and mitigation efforts along with understanding potential impacts to workforce capacity. Specifically, we developed an agent-based model of COVID-19 built on historical wildland fire assignments using detailed dispatch data from 2016-2018, which form a network of firefighters dispersed spatially and temporally across the US. We used this model to simulate SARSCoV- 2 transmission under several intervention scenarios including vaccination and social distancing. We found vaccination and social distancing are effective at reducing transmission at fire incidents. Under a scenario assuming High Compliance with recommended mitigations (including vaccination), infection rates, number of outbreaks, and worker days missed are effectively negligible, suggesting the recommended interventions could successfully mitigate the risk of cascading infections between fires. Under a contrasting Low Compliance scenario, it is possible for cascading outbreaks to emerge leading to relatively high numbers of worker days missed. As the model was built in 2021 before the emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants, the modeled viral parameters and isolation/quarantine policies may have less relevance to 2022, but nevertheless underscore the importance of following basic prevention and mitigation guidance. This work could set the foundation for future modeling efforts focused on mitigating spread of infectious disease at wildland fire incidents to manage both the health of fire personnel and system capacity.


Belval, Erin J.; Bayham, Jude; Thompson, Matthew P.; Dilliott, Jacob; Buchwald, Andrea G. 2022. Modeling the systemic risks of COVID‑19 on the wildland firefighting workforce. Scientific Reports. 12: 8320.


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