In focus: Washington DNR prepares for wildfire season with mock fire exercises in Capitol Forest


Washington’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conducted mock fire exercises in the Capitol State Forest on Wednesday afternoon to prepare for wildfire season.

“This training will enhance air crews’ ability to fight wildland fire more effectively and safely in aerial firefighting activities,” stated Thomas Kyle-Milward, wildfire communications manager, in a news release.

Colored smoke released from non-flammable containers in an open area signaled the drop site for helicopters during the exercises.

The helicopters landed in the state forest to set up the Bambi Bucket for water retrieval in a nearby reservoir. Bambi Buckets can hold 220 gallons of water.

The helicopters allow for more precision when aiming for the targeted drop site to contain fires.

Washington’s Department of Ecology declared a statewide drought on April 16 stating, “With winter’s snow storms largely behind us, our state’s low snowpack and forecasts for a dry and warm spring and summer have spurred the Department of Ecology to declare a drought emergency for most of Washington.

Last year, the state saw the second most ignitions in digitally recorded history, but also had the fewest acres burned in a decade, according to Kyle-Milward. 

“Bad fire seasons have become the new norm. We got really lucky last year,” Kyle-Milward said regarding recent fire seasons. 

Last year, more than 95% of fires were contained at 10 acres or fewer by the DNR, Kyle-Milward said.  

This year we should expect a “normal” fire season, Kyle-Milward said.