Early start to Washington’s wildfire season fuels concern for the months ahead

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SEATTLE — Washington’s wildfire season got off to an abrupt and early start this month when two separate blazes tore through dry, steep forest less than 70 miles from Seattle.

Fire officials say they were surprised to see wildfires burning this early west of the Cascades Mountains, particularly one that scorched nearly 300 acres. The blazes fueled worries about what lies ahead.

While the long-range wildfire outlook indicates this year’s wildfire season won’t be as extreme as last year, state officials say they’re nevertheless training and preparing for a difficult fire season ahead.

On the heels of two consecutive record-setting wildfire seasons, the state Department of Natural Resources is training more wildland firefighters, equipping local agencies with updated fire equipment, adding aircraft, radios and other equipment.

More than 200 local, state and federal firefighters, including dozens from the Washington National Guard, trained in Yakima last week.

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