FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 30, 2010
DNR Helitack crews trained and ready for holiday weekend
Early response saves lives and taxpayer dollars
OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) yesterday held training for helitack (helicopter-attack) crews in Ellensburg. Using helicopters for transportation, these specially trained crews can be quickly transported into remote and rugged areas to fight wildfires.
“By using helitack crews we can more quickly and more effectively contain wildfires throughout the state,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “Large wildfires create a greater risk to health and human safety, loss of natural resources, and cost exponentially more to suppress as they grow in size—that is why helitack crews are such an important part of our hardworking DNR fire program.”
Helitack crews provide statewide aviation support to fire suppression efforts throughout the fire season, which runs from April to October. DNR staffs six helicopters daily to attack wildfires while they are small, which maximizes safety and efficiency. The aircraft can be off the ground and en-route to a fire within five minutes of dispatch.
This season’s extra precipitation may actually increase fire risk. Moisture causes grasses and brush to grow larger, which adds to potential fuel supply. In dry conditions – normal for most of the state in late summer – the additional fuel can increase the rate at which fires spread and burn. Helitack crews augment DNR’s ability to contain fires while they are small, which is key to controlling costs. Last year, DNR kept 96 percent of all wildfires in its jurisdiction to 10 acres or less.
Fire safety tips for this Fourth of July
Here are some tips to help keep this a fun and enjoyable weekend:
- Before discharging fireworks, check to see if they are allowed in that location. It is illegal to discharge fireworks on state-protected and public lands;
- Never leave a campfire unattended, and be sure it is completely out before leaving the area;
- Be sure recreational vehicles have operating spark arresters;
- Do not park any vehicles in dry, grassy areas as the heat from exhaust systems can ignite the dry grass.
DNR’s wildfire mission
Administered by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, DNR is responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 12.7 million acres of private, state and tribal-owned forestlands in Washington. DNR is the state’s largest on-call fire department. During fire season, this includes more than 700 DNR employees who have other permanent jobs with the agency and about 375 seasonal workers. DNR also participates in Washington’s coordinated interagency approach to firefighting.
Media Contact: Janet Pearce, Communications and Outreach, 360-902-1122, firstname.lastname@example.org
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