WA DNR forced to cancel some fire fighting trainings as federal government shutdown continues

WA DNR forced to cancel some fire fighting trainings as federal government shutdown continues

With both the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service currently impacted by the partial federal government shutdown, the Washington Department of Natural Resources is beginning to worry about what that means for the upcoming fire season.

The record length government shutdown comes after a record fire fighting year for the Washington DNR. They responded to fires a record 1,850 times while more than 440,000 acres burned.

“One of the things about wild land fires in our area, is that we are highly interagency. No one agency can do everything, we works as a team when we put out fire, we work as a team when we train,” said Guy Gifford, a DNR spokesman, highlighting why losing their federal partners is concerning.

With employees of the Forest Service and BLM currently out of the equation, early training has already been impacted.

“There’s already been a cancellation of one of our advance upper management training, these are the people that manage our Type 1 and Type 2 fires,” said Gifford.

That training happening Redmond, Oregon.

Locally, a planning meeting for training hundreds of new firefighters was also canceled because they weren’t able to include the federal agencies.

Other concerns, include the status of federal contracts.

“The federal partners often give us those large air tanker, the large retardant drops from the fire bosses, if those aren’t ready to go when fire season starts, that is a critical component of our response,” said Gifford.

He notes that the January and February meetings are critical for the upcoming fire season, as they are able to take the time to plan. Fire season can begin as early as April and they don’t want to be playing catch-up then.

“We haven’t really talked about trigger points, about when this all has to get done,” said Gifford, “that will be the next discussion if this shutdown continues.”

Federal agencies supply man power he says, and if they aren’t around the state will have to divert resources to pick up the slack.

“They play critical roles, and others would have to cover for them until they get on board,” he said.

During the first week of march there is another large meeting for interagency management teams, if the shutdown continues Gifford suspects that would have to be rescheduled as well.

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