Hundreds of firefighters prepare for wildfire season - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Hundreds of firefighters prepare for wildfire season

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NACHES, WA - The typical wildfire season here in Washington doesn't start for a few more months, but hundreds of firefighters are getting ready for it now.

A huge training academy has been going on for a week in the Naches Valley. More than 400 wildland firefighters from across the state are doing everything they can to be ready for wildfire season.

"Train like your life depends on it, because it really does," said Johnathan Busby, Engine Leader for Goldendale Department of Natural Resources.

Crews come from 32 local, tribal, state, and federal agencies, including close to 60 rookie firefighters.

"Working for the Department of Natural Resources, I hear people get excited about it and were really interested in it," said Cory Chestnut, Firefighter 2. "I myself enjoy firefighting and I think that's something to be proud of."

The academy trains crews on how to properly use equipment; things like butterflying or flaking a hose, the most effective way to use their water hoses. Classes also focus on digging fire lines and recognizing wildfire behavior.

"You get that muscle memory, you keep doing it over and over again," Busby said. "You get out on a fire and you don't even have to think about what you're doing. You just automatically do it."

Seasoned firefighters are also learning how to train beginners.

"A lot of it is getting the knowledge up here-" Busby points to his head, "-out. They pick up the principles pretty easily, pretty quickly, but the biggest thing is showing them those tips of the trade."

For the past week, men and women have been living out of tents. The academy is set up just like it would be if they were fighting a wildfire right now, spending as much as 16 hours on the fire lines.

"They call it the fire bug, you're bit with it and you just love getting out there in the smoke and the heat," Busby said. "Running crews and running engines. The adrenaline rush is a big part of it."

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