For first time in state history, Washington accepting citizen volunteers to help fight fires
OMAK, Wash. (AP) — For the first time in state history, Washington said Thursday it is accepting help from citizens who have and can operate equipment like backhoes and bulldozers to dig fire lines.
The state Department of Natural Resources says its command posts have been inundated with offers of help.
“If people want to help, we’d like them to contact our coordinators so we can work on getting them safely and appropriately involved,” said state Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “We appreciate all offers of qualified and trained support. Safety for everyone is our highest priority.”
DNR is asking those offers be directed to the temporary coordination centers in Colville and Omak to allow DNR fire officers to remain focused on fighting active fires.
The centers will organize training sessions for those not currently qualified to serve on the fire line.
Beginning 7 a.m. Friday, coordinators will review citizens’ offers for resources and direct them to where they can be most beneficial and without jeopardizing the safety of firefighters and the public.
Deployment to a wildfire will depend on the availability of professional firefighting staff to escort and direct the volunteers.
Centers are being established in two strategic locations:
Omak: Jay Guthrie
Omak City Hall, 2 Ash St. N
Colville: Julie Sacket
Washington State Department of Transportation
Second Floor, 440 N Hwy 395
Each station will be staffed during posted hours with DNR coordinators who will sign up volunteers and contractors, determine where their assistance will be of most help, and arrange training in wildfire safety, where appropriate. Phone messages and emails can be submitted and will be reviewed during hours the coordination centers are not staffed.
To expedite the processing service, potential volunteers should contact DNR coordinators at the above phone numbers or email addresses in advance with their desired role, existing fire qualifications, location, and contact information.