RICHLAND, Wash. – Each year, the Hanford Fire Department prepares for the wildland fire season to ensure personnel and equipment are ready and to take preventative actions to reduce the severity and spread of fire in the coming months.
In 2018, nearly 100 Hanford firefighters working varied shifts responded to 11 wildland fires on site that burned approximately 20,000 acres. The department also assisted emergency responders on 15 wildland fires in the local area.
This year is likely to present additional challenges. According to the Hanford weather station, the amount of snowfall this past winter ranked fourth highest since records were kept. Due to excessive snowmelt, the fire department anticipates more vegetation growth than in previous years, and the department is communicating the potential hazard to Hanford employees and outside agencies.
“The fire department does an excellent job of ensuring our workers stay informed about conditions throughout the season,” said Corey Low, director of the security, emergency services and information management division for EM’s Richland Operations Office. “Each year, several bulletins are sent out to the Hanford workforce, sharing information on safety and off-road travel restrictions for the site.”
Fire season preparations include burning tumbleweeds and excessive brush, clearing vegetation to stop or slow the spread of fire, and providing refresher training to firefighters and other organizations that support responses to Hanford wildfires. The fire department also ensures firefighting vehicles and equipment are ready to go when needed.
“Our firefighters work with local fire departments as well as agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, the Yakima Training Center, and local farmers and land owners in preparation for the season,” Hanford Fire Chief Norb Kuhman said. “Communication is a key part of wildland fire prevention and response.”