Firefighter students prepare for upcoming wildfire season in Central Washington
NACHES, Wash. - Thirty-six different fire districts and 18 agencies are preparing 400 firefighters deep in the forests of Central Washington about eight miles outside of Naches. They're getting ready for what this summer's fire season could bring.
Thursday's trainings included firefighting tactics, and putting out a real forest fire.
"The goal here is the more that we can be training all of our different firefighting agencies together before the fires start, the more effective we will be on the ground during fire season," said Commissioner of Public Lands Officer Hilary Franz.
Franz says these exercises give the firefighter students an opportunity to train in a hands on environment.
Firefighters in the academy were battling the thick smoke in their layered fire suits, practicing what it's like to take out a massive fire, but these fire simulations won't compare to some of the huge wildfires fire crews expect we have in the next few months.
"The training provides us that opportunity if called to respond and provide adequate training, for me personally overall to support the communities in which we live here in Washington," said a student in the fire training academy Brian Tracer.
One of the biggest challenges for firefighters Franz says continues to be battling Washington's forest health crisis. Right now fire conditions in the state are more challenging compared to other years.
"Our fire conditions are more significant, more catastrophic, and given the context of heat and that we've had, a lot of snow and rain that help build more fuels on the ground, we are going to have a significant fire season," said Franz.
Franz says firefighters are now seeing more wildfires in the western part of our state, and are learning that western and eastern forest fires have different challenges.
"We are still fighting with the same resources in the same capacity we had in 2014 and 2015. Where are fires have largely been on the central and eastern part of our state," said Franz.
Last year Washington had over 400 fires, 10 of them burning thousands of acres. Franz says teaching these students now will be vital for fires that turn into massive ones.