National Guard, DNR team up to train new firefighters ahead of fire season

SPOKANE, Wash. — Crews at Fairchild Airforce Base here in Spokane were training firefighters amid the upcoming fire season.

One training activity included digging fire lines, which is used to expose the soil with the hopes of stopping the spread of a wildfire. They are getting hands-on training, helping address the problem the best way they can.

“Hands-on training is always the best,” Leonides Beltran, a specialist in the National Guard, said. “That’s how we can stop fires.”

About 80 national guardsmen were on the scene doing this training at the base earlier on Sunday. While they may not be at work fighting off wildfire, trainees are beginning to understand the importance of this training.

“Training’s essential,” Beltran said. “That’s how you build a successful crew. you build successful team members.”

The new trainees will now work to help contain fires, especially with the unknowns of this year’s fire season in particular.

“When there’s large incidents, and we don’t have enough resources,” Ross Avichouser, crew boss of the Washington Department of Natural Resources, said. “They’re that emergency resource we can call on for help when we need it.”

A rainy may could mean more fuel growth, which could lead to more fires, but it also might help. Avichouser said higher elevations means more moisture, which could lead to less activity near higher elevations later on.

The training is something that could be used to help keep communities safe. Around 200 national guardsmen have received the training and are ready to combat fires this season.

“It’s one of those [things] where I’m glad to be a part of [it],” Avichouser said.