JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Hundreds of firefighters are training in the South Sound to prepare for a wildfire season that’s already breaking records.
Crews from across the state are learning the basics to minimize property damage, protect homes and lives -- and make sure they are safe on the front lines.
“I’m in my dream job right now,” said firefighter Brandyn Harvey, who has been fighting wildfires for more than two decades. “It’s not for everyone but for the folks that love it, they do it for a career. That’s why I’m still here.”
Harvey says he was tapped for his experience to help teach a new generation how to work in sometimes dangerous conditions.
“The more we can get these guys good training right off the bat, they’re going to be more successful in their career,” he said.
“I’ve yet to do it,” said relatively new firefighter Micaiah Anderson. “Maybe I’ll find out I won’t like it or not, I have a feeling I’ll like it.”
Anderson says his training at the academy is a first for him as he’s only been a firefighter since last August. Now, he’s learning what it takes to fight fire in the wild.
“It’s teamwork,” he said. “It’s like playing on a baseball team, you’ve got to be communicating with everybody.”
Wildfire has already burned in Central Washington. Officials say training like this will help firefighters learn how to protect homes and property when it sparks near you.
Digging fire lines is only part of a ten-day long academy that includes real-world scenarios, classroom work and learning the tools of the job.
“We need more firefighters,” said Washington Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Hilary Franz. “As we’ve seen more catastrophic fires throughout the year, we need more firefighters to be ready and positioned to fight those.”
Franz added that the agency has pre-positioned firefighting aircraft and other equipment in areas likely to burn. Plus, this week’s academy includes side-by-side training with other federal and local agencies to help teach everyone to work together as a team.
Firefighters say this year’s fire season is already breaking records and all of Washington state shares in the danger.
“A large part of the state is in a drought,” said Franz. “We’ve had a very hot spring and a dry spring and that means that we have hot, dry landscapes that are primed for fire.”
The Western Washington’s Interagency Wildfire Training Academy is being held at the Rainier High School in Rainier.