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East Pierce Fire bracing for more wildfires in western Washington

Extremely dry conditions and the growing threat of wildfires have firefighters in western Washington on high alert.

SUMNER, Wash. — Firefighters in western Washington are on heightened alert as the state remains on track to hit one of the worst wildfire seasons on record.

East Pierce Fire and Rescue said their team continues to deploy to wildfires across the state, but crews are also preparing for any incidents closer to home.

"Sumner Grade woke us up, as well as all of western Washington up, to the fact that we're not immune from a large-scale wildfire," said Fire Chief Jon Parkinson.

Back in September, nearly 7,000 residents in Pierce County were evacuated due to the Sumner Grade Fire. The fire grew to nearly 500 acres in size, damaging two homes and destroying at least four structures.

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East Pierce Fire and Rescue had to request a state mobilization, but fire crews across the state were so busy those resources did not arrive for a few days.

"Fire departments in general, East Pierce as well are more aware and taking earlier steps when those smaller fires occur before they grow any further," said Parkinson.

Western Washington fire crews learned a lot from the Sumner Grade Fire, including the need to better educate western Washingtonians about wildfire dangers.

"Teaching our residents that level one, two, three [evacuations] means ready, set, go," explained Parkinson. "For us, it's an unusual language, I guess, to use on this side of the Cascades. Using some more basic terminologies as far as understanding what it means when you hear those and what action you need to take.”

Parkinson also stressed the importance of defensible space and emergency kits in case a fire like Sumner Grade were to happen again.

“Could that same event happen today? Absolutely,” said Parkinson. “Nothing significant has improved. In other words, our fuel moistures are still very low [and] we still have not had a lot of rain.”

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