The Arcata Fire Department on Oct. 5 | Photo by Ivan Ramirez

HSU offers housing to forest service firefighters

Firefighters who test positive for COVID-19 will be housed on campus to complete their quarantine period.
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Firefighters who test positive for COVID-19 will be housed on campus to complete their quarantine period.

Humboldt State University will provide quarantine housing to United States Forest Service firefighters in the event that someone on their teams tests positive for COVID-19. Housing will be for the individuals who were potentially exposed to positive COVID-19 individuals.

HSU has set aside two dormitory buildings, Maple and Hemlock, which can house up to 20 firefighters each.

Firefighters are expected to avoid the dining halls and not share spaces with students. The US Forest Service is requiring employees to adhere to quarantine orders, limiting them to individual rooms. Rooms are located in the same building, separate from housing residents.

HSU has not been requested to provide meal delivery. The US Forest Service has contracts with vendors for meal delivery.

All of the protocols were developed by the CDC, California Public Health and Humboldt County Public Health. Similar to the isolation rooms that have been set aside for HSU students who’ve tested positive, rooms will be sterilized prior to forest service stays and again after they’ve left.

Aside from COVID-19, Forest Service firefighters have stayed overnight for transition housing during the fire season.

Stephen St. Onge, associate vice president for student success at HSU, is impressed with the university’s speedy response towards CAL Fire’s request.

“There was a group that was moving from one fire to another and couldn’t find a place to stay,” Onge said. “We mobilized and we’re able to support that, I am proud of HSU for being able to do that.”

The group that stayed on campus slept for a few hours until transitioning to the next fire. None of the firefighters that stayed overnight were tested positive for COVID-19. A contract is currently in the works to see if CAL Fire needs more transition housing from HSU.

Typically, fire agencies try to keep hotel rooms open for fire evacuees by finding alternative housing. During COVID-19, it is extremely important that they find non-congregate living for quarantine.

As a state entity with lots of amenities in a rural region, HSU often partners with state, local, and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and others to provide support.

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