This article is a reflection on doing wildfire research aimed at shaping public policy in Orange County, California, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its focus is on the little-known efforts of fire mitigation by Latinx migrant workers. In this article, I discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic made me shift research focus from seeking to understand how workers’ ecological knowledge might shape fire mitigation policy to a prioritization of workers’ precarious “essential labor” on the “front” front lines of fire prevention. I discuss how the temporalities of the pandemic, wildfire, and research played out across the labor terrain of the Southern California wildfire mitigation efforts and within my own applied research. Specifically, I discuss how COVID-19 university research “ramped down,” and stay-at-home orders prevented me from being embedded with workers in the county’s canyons, as I had planned, and how I had to learn to adjust my funded research. The outcome required doing applied research by letting go of continuity, by dwelling in disjointed COVID-19 temporalities that settled over the county’s flammable chaparral where essential labor serves as an extension of a failing settler colonial fire management practice that requires worker vulnerability to inoculate the lives of those living in the county’s wildfire risk regions.