Four islanders responded to a call for help fighting a large wildfire near Leavenworth, Wash., last week after it tripled in size overnight.
The four were part of a group of about two dozen Vashon firefighters who have completed special training to be qualified to fight wildfires, said Brett Kranjcevich, a volunteer firefighter and mechanic for Vashon Island Fire & Rescue (VIFR) who made the trip last Wednesday. He was joined by fellow VIFR volunteers Katy Burbank, Matt McCann and Wes Paulsen. A similar group responded to a fire near Wenatchee last month.
Kranjcevich said fighting the wildfires was hard work, but also a good training experience for the Vashon crew, which is compensated by the state for its work.
“I learn something new on every fire,” he said. “It’s amazing to bring home things and teach our people how to safely fight these kinds of fires on a smaller scale.”
Those with wildfire training are sometimes called on by the state when wildfires grow too large for local departments to handle. When a specific zone that Vashon is a part of is called, whoever is available on short notice responds, Kranjcevich said.
In Leavenworth, the crew arrived early Wednesday morning and worked from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. the first day. The islanders were part of a crew working to protect several structures from a quickly spreading fire. They returned home Saturday, when the fire was said to be 50 percent contained.
“We don’t have to get this qualification,” Kranjcevich said. “Those who come over and do this wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t feel like it was a worthwhile cause.”