Raging wildfires across Central and Eastern Washington have kept firefighters busy across the state, including some of our own Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) crews. Twenty AmeriCorps members, led by WCC supervisor Jay McMillen, assisted Department of Natural Resources as a hand crew on multiple fire dispatches this summer, starting with the Illabot Fire near Rockport in mid-June.
Serving on the fire line
Our WCC hand crew first dispatched to the Stewart Mountain Fire, supporting efforts within the first 48-72 hour period — referred to as an initial attack. On multiple fires following Stewart Mountain, the hand crew surveyed burned land, examining it closely for remaining heat, smoke or embers and extinguishing the spots with water and dirt — a procedure referred to as mopping up. These AmeriCorps hand crew members also dug fire line, or linear ditches that serve as fire barriers to prevent the fires from advancing.
Supporting fire camps
In addition to our hand crew, over 80 of our WCC AmeriCorps members deployed this summer to support 15 different fire camps across the state. Camp crews assist with food distribution, volunteer management, camp maintenance, equipment organization and anything else that might come up.
Although recent heavy rainfall across Washington provided temporary relief to low stream and river flows, wildfires continue to burn across parts of Eastern Washington. Wildfire risk is still extremely high. As of September 8, 10 of our WCC AmeriCorps members are still serving at the Okanogan Complex fire camp.
Visit Governor Inslee’s wildfire resource page for wildfire status updates and other resources.
Dispatch from the fireline: A personal account
Michael Hanley, a second-year AmeriCorps member on the King County Spike Crew, served on our WCC hand crew this summer. He wrote the following description of the crew’s recent dispatch to the Rutter Canyon Fire:
WCC’s disaster response program
Long hours, unpredictable conditions, and ultimately rewarding experiences serving communities in need often characterize WCC disaster response efforts. Deployments range from national to local disasters, supporting flood response and prevention, wildfire operations, hurricane assistance, and more. Four of our WCC crews are designated disaster response crews, though any crew has the potential to deploy.
Do you want to help the environment, meet great people and make a real difference? WCC is currently hiring for the 2015-2016 crew year! Ecology's Washington Conservation Corps, an AmeriCorps Program, consists of three subprograms: the original WCC, Veteran Conservation Corps and Puget SoundCorps.
See photos of the types of projects WCC members work on during their service in our WCC Projects Flickr set. Learn more and apply online today to become a member of WCC: www.ecology.wa.gov/wcc