Thousands respond to call for wildfire volunteers

Thousands respond to call for wildfire volunteers

27 August 2015

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USA–  Thanks to a volunteer drive, wildfire crews have extra support on the front lines and behind the scenes.

The state of Washington is no longer looking for volunteers to battle the wildfires that have burned more than 1,100 square miles of land.

The Department of Natural Resources says it will close three volunteer intake offices on Thursday afternoon. The offices are located in Omak, Colville and Castle Rock.

Thousands of people applied after the state called for volunteers to help with firefighting efforts, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources said. And while many people didn’t have the training or certification needed to be on the front lines, some of them are helping in other ways.

“The outpouring of support has been incredibly heartwarming and humbling,” said Mary Verner, deputy for DNR’s statewide wildfire program.

DNR was able to place an emergency medical technician from Quincy and three Adams County firefighters on the front lines, while others are pitching in to keep the operations running. Angela Davis, a member of the Okanogan band of Colville Tribes, and Caleb Arnett, a carpenter and window cleaner from Omak, are helping in the finance division. Davis, whose mother’s home is threatened by wildfires, making sure firefighters are getting paid.

“It’s extremely satisfying to know I’m covering their backs while they’re out covering my ancestral homeland,” said Davis.

Those people are just a handful of the many volunteers who have been put to work or are awaiting assignment. In all, DNR provided basic safety certification for 315 equipment operators and identified 100 new pieces of equipment.

In addition to those added to active rosters or who has already been sent out to fight, another 1,000 people volunteered who had relevant skills but were lacking current certifications or required safety equipment. DNR is encouraging these people to contact their local fire districts and take part in training sessions next season.

“Volunteer firefighters provide a vital service in our communities. If we can turn the enthusiasm we’ve seen for community service into something that bolsters their ability to respond, everyone benefits,” said Verner.

Each January, DNR begins recruiting for spring training for wildland firefighters. Those interested in applying next year should check job announcements here.

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