Western Washington could see firefighter shortage through Labor Day Weekend

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A possible shortage of firefighters, continued dry weather and a big holiday weekend have caused concern in Western Washington.

Fears of wildfires have firefighters on edge. Some have said they’re worried that they won’t have enough manpower to respond to multiple fire calls after sending crews to fight the Taylor Bridge Fire in Central Washington earlier this month.

“If there’s multiple calls, it takes a toll on our resources,” said Tim Perciful of Mountainview Fire and Rescue.

He said his agency only has three brush-fighting fire trucks to cover all of South King County.

They’ve dealt with a brush fire a day for the past week and want to get to them before the fires get out of control.

“Our wildland firefighting team and our structural firefighters have a challenge getting those fires out before they get large,” Perciful said.

He said that challenge will only grow in the next few days. That’s partly because of the ongoing dry weather, partly because of the weekend with lots of outdoor activities like camping and barbecuing, and partly because of the Taylor Bridge Fire.

That fire is now contained, but most fire agencies require periods of rest for their workers between fighting fires, which means fewer firefighters are available right now.

At one point, more than 1,000 firefighters from all over the state battled the Taylor Bridge Fire. Different fire agencies have different rules about resting, and officials said there’s no way to tell exactly how many firefighters will be unavailable this weekend.

That worries Patrick Lilley of Auburn. He and his wife arrived at their home recently to see fire racing along underbrush just a few feet from their neighbor’s house.

That neighbor “wasn’t home, so we called 911 as soon as possible,” Lilley said.

Perciful said he hopes people will be extra watchful throughout Labor Day Weekend to keep those 911 calls to a minimum.

“Be careful with your cars, driving on grass, cigarette butts and even mowing the lawn,” he said.