Washington prepares to increase wildfire resources

‘nothing Looks Good’ Preparing For Summer Wildfire Season
Kyle Kosma

In this May 14, 2021, photo provided by the High Desert Museum, U.S. Forest Service firefighters carry out a prescribed burn on the grounds of the High Desert Museum, near Bend, Oregon. The prescribed burn is part of a massive effort in wildlands across the West to prepare for a fire season that follows the worst one on record.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Officials at the Department of Natural Resources say Washington is far more prepared to quickly get on top of fires this year through partnerships with local, state and federal entities.

The ground crew at Fire District 8 have run through practice scenarios throughout the spring to keep sharp.  This is just one team of many in the Spokane area who work together to fight fires.

“We have our automatic aid partners and our mutual aid partners with the surrounding fire districts and the City of Spokane. We use Department of Emergency Management we also, we brief with Northwest weather service,” said Jay Wilkins.

In the air, around a dozen helicopters, six air tankers, and three air attack platforms will be available by July.  These tools are just as important as the ground crews.

“We do have a lot of hard terrain to get to, and a lot of times our engines will run out of water where the aircraft can continually scoop water and get into those vital areas,” said Chief of Air Operations Dave Ritchie.

Last year more than 800,000 acres of Washington land burned in one of the worst seasons on record.  However more help will be on the way in the form of House Bill 1168.  This will provide $125 million every two years to respond to wildfires.  However, at the end of the day, the people and their training and knowledge are the best tools available.

“This training makes sure that we can stay on top of the goals that we need to achieve of fire extinguishment in order to be aggressive and offensive,” said Wilkins.

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz says House Bill 1168 will help bring in about 100 firefighters and additional air resources.  The bad news is the money starts in July, meaning that extra help will not be available until next year.