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COVID-19 sidelines 16 firefighters battling Caldor Fire

A Cal Fire spokesman says those 16 firefighters will have to quarantine for two weeks.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A COVID-19 outbreak has sidelined a strike team of 16 firefighters battling the Caldor Fire encroaching on South Lake Tahoe.

SFGATE reports a California Department of Forest and Fire Protection incident commander announced the loss of the crews and warned other firefighters to follow the agency’s COVID-19 protocols during a Tuesday briefing. 

Cal Fire spokesperson Jeff Vike confirmed the COVID infections at a press conference on Tuesday.

“We lost a whole strike team of crews [Monday],” Vike said before urging mask-wearing at the daily briefings. 

A Cal Fire spokesman says those 16 firefighters will have to quarantine for two weeks. He did not have information on where the strike team was stationed or their vaccination status.

He added that this is the first outbreak on the Caldor Fire.

“Do not come to this briefing without a mask on. I understand your views are important. And I will always respect that as one of your leaders. But you are here at a briefing. One more COVID firefighter getting sick could take out our actions to protect the communities and the people that we're here to serve,” Vike said. “What I'm saying is, we need every one of you to stay healthy.”

The Caldor Fire has grown to 204,390 acres and is 20% contained. Nearly 600 homes have been destroyed and nearly an additional 35,000 remain threatened. More than 53,000 people have been evacuated so far because of the fire.

Read more from ABC10

WATCH ALSO: Heavenly Ski Resort using snowmakers in Caldor Fire prep

Wildfire Preps

If you live in a wildfire-prone zone, Cal Fire suggests creating a defensible space around your home. Defensible space is an area around a building in which vegetation and other debris are completely cleared. At least 100 feet is recommended.

WATCH: What you need to know to prepare, stay safe for wildfires

The Department of Homeland Security suggests assembling an emergency kit that has important documents, N95 respirator masks, supplies to grab with you if you’re forced to leave at a moment’s notice. The agency also suggests signing up for local warning system notifications and know your community’s evacuation plans best to prepare yourself and your family in cases of wildfires.

Some counties use Nixle alerts to update residents on severe weather, wildfires, and other news. To sign up, visit www.nixle.com or text your zip code to 888777 to start receiving alerts. 

Read more: Are you wildfire ready? Here's what to do to prepare for fire season.

PG&E customers can also subscribe to alerts via text, email, or phone call. If you're a PG&E customer, visit the Profile & Alerts section of your account to register.

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