SPOKANE, Wash. -- Leaders from state and local fire agencies are changing their way of thinking when it comes to fighting wildfires.
After the Carlton Complex and the Okanogan Complex fires, it was clear that changes were needed.
KREM 2 talked to some folks at Department of Natural Resources and they agreed Washington fire seasons are changing. They are starting earlier and lasting longer. It is not just a June, July and August problem anymore. There is now a shift in how our firefighters, state and local, are trying to keep the fires we do get from getting any worse.
DNR is now bringing staff on earlier than they ever have before to get them trained so they can be in place and ready to go as soon as the fire call comes in. In fact, they have already started. In the Northeast region of our state, we are also bringing in more aircraft to be pre-positioned and on standby. There is nothing that can replace air support in a big wildfire, so those kinds of planes and choppers are critical.
There is also a greater effort underway to keep the fires from getting that big in the first place. So right now, there is a big emphasis on hazardous fuels reduction on private land, state, and federal land. We are talking about places like Fish and Wildlife land, Colville National Forest, DNR land, or Riverside State Park that will all be seeing fuel reduction, clearing away that lower brush and debris that burns so easily and allows those fires to climb and spread. DNR officials said Stevens County, and Okanogan County have a lot of land that needs attention, as well as Ferry, Pend Orielle and Spokane County.
The reduction may come in the form of prescribed burns. This is something that just has not been done much lately at all, and they are trying to get back to that because they know it makes a difference. It may also come in the form of additional prison crews from Airway Heights. DNR said those initial attack crews are instrumental in the immediate response of a major fire. So, they are hoping to expand that program even more.
Lastly, those federal, state and local agencies are going to start doing a lot more inter-agency training. Learning how to work and communicate with each other better than in the past, pooling their resources, and making sure they are taking advantage of every tool we have to protect lives and property.