LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– A firefighter battling the Cameron Peak Fire burning in Larimer County has tested positive for coronavirus. The firefighter had direct contact with 25 people and nine others had possible contact.

The firefighter tested positive on Tuesday. Before being quarantined, the firefighter had contact with people mostly from his crew in one of the fire’s forward operating bases. The base is a smaller camp for firefighters where they live, eat and sleep away from the incident command post.

Cameron Peak Fire on Aug. 24. (credit: Cameron Peak Fire)

The bases have been used on the fire as a COVID-19 mitigation to reduce the number of people living in a single space.

The firefighter had arrived at the base for the night when he felt ill. It was only those who helped him who were directly exposed.

The Larimer County Department of Health and Environment locked down the base on Wednesday due to the potential exposure of 184 personnel to the positive individual. That number has been greatly reduced to 25 direct contact and possible contact of nine others.

The Colorado National Guard Rapid Response team has been deployed to conduct testing and those who test positive will be relocated and isolated per the county’s guidelines. During the 24-hour waiting period for results, those tested will be in what’s called “working quarantine” and will continue to work the fire in small groups. If they receive a negative test result, they will be allowed back on the fireline.

The Cameron Peak Fire on Aug. 13, 2020 (credit: CBS)

More than 850 different individuals from more than 35 states have worked on the Cameron Peak Fire since it began last month. So far, four have tested positive for coronavirus with the first three cases identified more than a week ago and the fourth confirmed on Wednesday.

“We have a responsibility to this community and to other states to ensure that our people are healthy before we send them home. We know that keeping anyone isolated or quarantined won’t be popular, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s due to the exceptionally good social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing practices at the FOB, that this wasn’t worse,” said incident commander Bea Day in a statement.

The Cameron Peak Fire began on Aug. 13 and has burned 23,137 acres. It was 6% contained on Thursday evening.

Some mandatory evacuations in Larimer County are now voluntary. Those evacuations have been in place for weeks. The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said those impacted by the evacuation change are in the Pingree Park Road area.

Jennifer McRae

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