What Does “Module as One” Mean in 2021?

Wildland firefighters attend a socially distant fire briefing.

By Dr. Jennifer Symonds

Fire and Aviation Management Medical Officer

U.S. Forest Service

The onset of the global pandemic in the spring of 2020 necessitated the wildland fire community to rapidly adapt many historic processes in order to manage wildland fire while doing our best to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across our community and to the public at large. One of the most successful innovations introduced was the “Module as One” concept where crews stuck together in their module for the entire season riding in the same rigs with the same folks without co-mingling with other crews as much as possible. It was kind of a “module as a crew/family” concept.

It was Successful

Crews, Incident Management Teams, and other wildland fire response folks from across the nation took the “Module as One” concept to heart and not only limited the spread of COVID-19, but also significantly reduced the occurrence of the typical “camp crud” that generally runs rampant in fire camps during the season. A nice side benefit!

What do things look like this year? Vaccines have been administered, infection rates are down, fire activity is picking up. Are we sticking with the practices that were established last year?

The answer is yes, but with modifications to reflect the current guidance, direction, and practices.

Changes for Fire Season 2021

On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued a Presidential Executive Order (EO) on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing. Agency medical leads and other public health experts studied this direction and the changing situation related to the pandemic. As a result, the Wildland Fire Medical and Public Health Advisory Team, or MPHAT, has issued new direction to COVID-19 policies which will affect the way fire assets should implement the concept of “Module as One” this fire season.

What are the specifics? Here’s the scoop:

  1. “Module as One” should be used by crew and modules to reduce exposures to COVID-19 from outside resources or the public, and no longer as a tool to operate in close quarters without masks. Even if vaccinated, this concept and recommended prevention and mitigation practices for COVID-19 can be useful tools to reduce exposures to many infectious diseases and maintain a healthy crew.
  2. “Module as One” is a concept that is best practiced on a fire incident and not at the home unit.
  3. “Module as One” is the same as “module as a crew/family.” It does not mean to actually module as an individual. There is no crew hopping and crews should not be divided into smaller units to isolate.
  4. All federal employees who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks as long as they remain asymptomatic. Those federal employees who have made the personal decision to not get vaccinated or that are not fully vaccinated, only have one of the two-dose series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations: you are on your HONOR to do your DUTY to wear masks at all times in an enclosed space – tent/yurt, building or vehicle – unless you are the only person in a vehicle or in an office with walls from the floor to the ceiling and the door closed.
  5. On the home unit, a crew should still try to isolate from others not on the crew and follow prevention mitigations – hand washing, physical distancing and mask wearing per the Executive Order, but it is understood that some individuals will be going home at night to family which negates “Module as One” on the home unit. Incident Management Team (IMT) members often travel from various locations and often interact with the public and many other IMT members. They cannot be a “Module as One.”
  6. For the entire season, the same people travel in the same vehicle with the same other people—no need for physical distancing of crew members that are moduling together. No vehicle hopping—except in an emergency. Travel with windows cracked/open to maximize ventilation and consider wearing masks/face coverings in a vehicle for infectious disease prevention, unless you are the only one in a vehicle.
  7. On a fireline, the fire is the focus but try not to co-mingle close (less than 6 feet apart) to other crews if it is avoidable. Obviously, in a medical incident you may not be able to stay beyond 6 feet. Risk of transmission of coronavirus out in the open air is lower.
  8. Only wear masks on a fireline if you would have done that normally before COVID-19.
  9. In camp, infectious disease is the focus. Wash your hands! Consider using face coverings and physical distancing around those not in your module.
  10. The recommendation is to carry a copy of your vaccination card with you in case you are exposed to a COVID-19 positive case.  The health department may require to see it to allow you to be excused from quarantine.

These updates are subtle but important as we again embark on what is looking to be another busy fire season within the backdrop of a continuing global pandemic. Understanding and implementing the modified “Module as One” concept as well as other practices that should be observed and implemented out on the fireline and in fire camp this year is a critical component to another successful season with limited transmission and to help support healthy crews.

For more considerations and recommendations regarding wildland firefighting and COVID-19 please visit:




To review a summary of COVID-19 related lessons gathered from the wildland fire community in 2020 please visit:


7 thoughts on “What Does “Module as One” Mean in 2021?

  1. Is there really a “pandemic”? What does that term objectively mean? What do the terms “vaccine” and “vaccinated” objectively mean?

    • A pandemic is the spread of a new disease, or one that had been thought to be eradicated, over a large geographic area, usually multiple continents or worldwide, affecting a significant proportion of the population.

      A vaccine is a substance created using the causative agent of a disease that is weakened, killed or modified, or its products such as toxins or proteins, that when introduced to the body by injection, orally or topically on mucosa, stimulates the production of antibodies that provide immunity against that disease.

      Vaccinate is the act of giving a dose of a vaccine to produce immunity against a disease.

      Endemic means continually present in a community or population.

      Yes, there is a pandemic going on. With lack of participation in getting vaccinated and the lack of available vaccine in other countries, variants are being produced and spread that overall may cause this disease, COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, to become endemic and not be eradicated. When does the term change from pandemic to endemic? I do not know.

      • Where were the clinical trials for these vaccines performed? What were those results?

        What is the effectiveness rate for each of the major vaccines being pushed on the American people? What is your evidence for this?

        Why should healthy young people at low risk (the majority of wildland firefighters) subject themselves to vaccinations that have already been shown to be in some cases ineffective? (Thinking here of the New York Yankees, who were vaccinated and yet contracted Covid).

        If the vaccines are effective, why are people who have been vaccinated still being required to wear masks in many places?

    • No, there’s no pandemic. You’re on to them! You cracked the code! You’re escaping the matrix. Thank you for asking a medical doctor the tough questions she wasn’t prepared to answer by using her years of study.

      Vaccines have microchips and autism. The earth is flat. Trump won the election. The Civil War was about states’ rights and tariffs. Fires are started by laser beams.

      Please stay anonymous on this thread so Biden’s henchmen don’t take you away to the reprogramming camps. If you sense danger, blow on the Karen Conch three times and I’ll come to your rescue.

  2. It would appear then that these are not vaccines at all but rather therapies. These novel “vaccines” do not convey immunity at all like your definition suggests but rather lessen the severity of symptoms – by that definition a therapy. Also, not necessary for all but rather just for those who feel themselves or think themselves based on known facts to be in high risk. We have to tell people facts and have them make informed decisions about their own health NOT scare people or shame people into thinking/feeling they have to take on a medical procedure (“vaccine”). There are a lot of unknowns, misinformation and un-altruistically motivated parties pulling in different directions for there to be consensus on what is right or should be the standard for each individual, therefore each is and should be responsible and encouraged to seek their own path forward with regards to treatment.

  3. To: Super Extra

    Its because of your judgment that some folks feel they should remain anonymous. Some folks are just trying to understand amidst all the conflicting information.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.