JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — More than 100 Washington National Guard soldiers and airmen participated in live training and red card certification testing Sunday as part of a partnership between the Washington National Guard and Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
"We've got them digging line, we've got them putting up fire shelters, we've got them working pumps, and this is a combination of an extensive virtual process including 50 hours of classroom activity; this is their final practical exam." WADNR Wildfire Communications Manager Thomas Kyle-Milward said.
WADNR and the WNG began teaming up in 2013 to prepare guard members for potential fire-related activations. Since 2014, more than 4,000 members have deployed to support firefighting efforts.
"The Guard is an invaluable resource for DNR because they give us an extra layer of power, they give us an extra layer of resources," Kyle-Milward said.
Each guard member has a unique background, and a reason they're passionate to serve.
"I'm a student at UW so I don't get a lot of time between my family and homework and everything to be able to volunteer," Sgt. Jeffrey DeRouen said. "Summers are a free time and we tend to have problems with fire so it's nice to be able to step into that role."
WADNR says conditions for this fire season look a little better than they did over the past couple of years.
"This year we're experiencing a wetter spring than we have in the past and cold fronts throughout April have preserved the snowpack a little bit," Kyle-Milward said. "So DNR is expecting more of a typical wildfire season instead of these really severe years we've had the past few years."