Some of the pandemic safety measures that have been adopted over the course of the past five months have helped prepare some agricultural operations for the current fire season. The multiple wildfires burning throughout California are creating unhealthy air conditions for a majority of the state. VP of Crops and Soils at Van Groningen and Sons, Bryan Van Groningen explained that their COVID-19 safety standards have better prepared them for
“Part of our safety protocol over the last couple of months has been to make sure that all of our outdoor employees have been wearing masks not only for COVID reasons, but now with the wildfires the way they are, the way the air quality is, it’s kind of making it a dual purpose right now,” Van Groningen noted. “So as far as worker safety goes, I think that we’re probably at the best possible point that we could be at.”
Even without the pandemic safety measures in place, the air quality readings over the past week would have likely prompted the need to use N95 respirators while working. Van Groningen explained they have been fortunate in acquiring the necessary safety supplies prior to the fires erupting as a means of complying with the state’s COVID-19 safety orders. “We’re kind of used to having those safety protocols in place since the pandemic started. So it isn’t that big of a strain for us. We’ve got a good supply. The county has also offered some masks to us as well throughout the last couple of months,” said Van Groningen.
WORKING THROUGH SMOKEY CONDITIONS
The smoke from multiple fires has resulted in bad air quality throughout the state. When Van Groningen spoke with AgNet West last week, he described similar conditions that many operations around California are dealing with. The record-setting high temperatures have also created unfavorable conditions as work continues on California farms and ranches.
“We were noticing the different ash particles that were falling from the sky. Today is a lot more hazy, a lot thicker smoke in the air,” said Van Groningen. “We still have the ash that’s falling but the winds of yesterday afternoon seemed to kind of clean some of that up a little bit. But today the air’s a lot more stagnant.”