Firefighters Stretched Thin, Washington National Guard Can Help - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Firefighters Stretched Thin, Washington National Guard Can Help

Posted: Updated:
 KENNEWICK, WA - The Department of Natural Resources declared a State of Emergency Tuesday night for 20 eastern Washington counties.

Benton, Franklin, Yakima, Walla Walla and Columbia Counties are all listed under that State of Emergency. Just a few local fires on Tuesday showed why the extra help from the Washington National Guard and the State Guard are needed.

"This just helps cut some red tape out. They know these calls are coming and they're a little more prepared, a little more eager to help because it has been declared," said Devin Helland, of Benton County Fire District One.

That is very good news for our local firefighters. They said resources were stretched nearly to the limit on Tuesday with multiple fires all burning in Benton County at one time.

"We sent resources from all the different agencies to those two, three large fires. So when that happens, we don't have as many apparatus within the city or departments to respond on our normal call volume," said Battalion Chief Tod Kreutz.

Firefighters themselves were worked to the limit with up to three of them hospitalized for heat-related issues.

"It's very taxing. We try to stay in good shape but when it's that hot and you're working that hard, it does catch up to you," said Kreutz.

A strike team from Walla Walla helped backfill the local stations, part of a broad mutual aid agreement that has been honed over years of fires in eastern Washington. 

"We train together, we purchase the same equipment so when we get on the scene we can communicate with each other. We have the radio systems, same type of equipment. We know what other folks are bringing, what their capabilities are. We work really well together in this area," said Kreutz.

The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings and fire watches for most of eastern Washington through Friday.

The Washington National Guard has already been called in to help out. Two helicopters and 14 people are helping battle the Carlton Complex Fire north of Wenatchee.