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Wildland firefighter in Idaho tests positive for coronavirus

| August 12, 2020 4:37 PM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A wildland firefighter who was working with about 270 other people on a small fire in Idaho has tested positive for coronavirus, officials said Wednesday.

The Idaho Department of Lands said in a news release that the person who tested positive and those who were working with the individual were isolated and returned to their home unit without interacting with other fire crews or nearby communities. Officials are working on contact tracing while firefighters continue to battle the fire.

Two other people also working on the fire appeared to have symptoms like those seen in COVID-19, but they tested negative for the illness.

The Pumpkin fire is burning on less than 1 square mile (2.59 square kilometers) near Horseshoe Bend. State and federal agencies are working on suppressing the blaze, which was started by lightning on Aug. 6.

State and federal wildland firefighting agencies have taken several steps in hopes of reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including having crews camp separately, using air drops to deliver meals and having staffers wear masks when they can't maintain social distancing.

So far, more than 25,500 people in Idaho have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. But that number is likely an undercount because not everyone is tested. At least 246 people have died of the illness in Idaho so far.