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CONG helps test wildland firefighting teams for COVID-19

Members of the Colorado National Guard set up a COVID-19 testing site in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, June 29, 2020, to test wildland firefighting staff supporting fire suppression efforts in southwest Colorado.

Members of the Colorado National Guard set up a COVID-19 testing site in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, June 29, 2020, to test wildland firefighting staff supporting fire suppression efforts in southwest Colorado.

CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Colorado National Guard Soldiers and Airmen conducted COVID-19 tests of more than 250 first responders involved in fighting wildland fires June 22-29.

At the request of the state, Joint Task Force-Centennial has employed Mobile Testing and Training teams comprised of nearly 70 Colorado Army and Air National members from more than 12 units to support incident commanders and local jurisdictions.

“We are a rapid response team tasked to go out and get ahead of any outbreaks,” U.S. Army Capt. Brian Doble, Task Force Test Support commander, said. “Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team was the first team in the nation to stand up an incident command process that allowed for mission control in a socially distanced environment. We are coming in to test that their social distancing processes and protocols were effective.”

“It’s important to ensure that we identify and contain any potential outbreaks, especially among essential first responders and incident command staff in fire camps as we move toward what could be a busy fire season.”

Task Force Test Support has three mobile testing and training teams and a command and control element. The team travels to sites across Colorado.

Mobile Testing Teams perform testing, educate site staff on proper swabbing and decontamination procedures to prevent cross-contamination, and evaluate social distancing protocols.

“As first responders, it’s our mission to keep the communities we serve safe,” said Dawn Sanchez, Sand Creek Fire public information officer. “While on the fire, we’ve been practicing social distancing and wearing masks while working and when out in public. We would like to thank the Colorado National Guard for partnering with us and helping with the testing.”

The mission is expected to continue through July.

All CONG members have been medically screened and are on Title 32 federally funded orders under state control.

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