Governor declares state of emergency, National Guard utilized fo - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Governor declares state of emergency, National Guard utilized for Washington wildfires

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File photo of a National Guard helicopter fighting Alaska fire in 2015 File photo of a National Guard helicopter fighting Alaska fire in 2015
OLYMPIA, Wash. -

Gov. Jay Inslee signed an emergency proclamation Tuesday for all 39 counties to ensure immediate response of firefighting resources to protect people, homes, businesses and property from the threat of wildfire.

"Catastrophic fires are burning up and down the West Coast, putting a strain on our firefighting resources," Inslee said. "This proclamation ensures resources are ready to go at a moment’s notice to help protect our communities from another unprecedented fire season."

Dangerous fire fuel and weather conditions exist throughout the state. The proclamation allows for assistance from the Washington National Guard, which routinely trains and certifies soldiers and airmen to fight wildfires. Already, the Department of Natural Resources has requested from the Washington National Guard the use of aviation assets, as well as 20-person hand crews to be deployed to Eastern Washington.

DNR says resources have been stretched thin. This year, they've responded to 891 fires that have burned 113,000 acres. In all of 2017, DNR responded to 853 fires 

Wildfires are starting on both sides of the Cascades, with nearly 300 fires on the west side of the state. But DNR says firefighters have been able to keep the vast majority of the fires (about 94 percent) under 10 acres in size.

But the number of fires and hot and dry weather is exhausting available resources, DNR says. With large fires burning in California and Oregon, out-of-state resources are also limited.

As a result, the emergency declaration allows the National Guard to respond to fires.

“The efforts of our firefighters have been nothing short of heroic, but the sheer number and geographic range of wildfires have stretched our resources thin,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “Our state is at a very high-risk for even more wildfires, and we need additional resources to keep our communities safe. I want to thank the National Guard for providing help at this critical moment.”

Wednesday morning, two National Guard Blackhawk helicopters will stage at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane and prepare for initial attack on wildfires. The National Guard is also deploying five 20-person crews in northeast Washington on existing wildfires. 

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