Wildfires strike early in Western Washington

by: Chris Legeros Updated:

SEATTLE —

Wildfires have started early in western Washington - so early that many of the college kids who are hired to fight them are still in class.

 The State Department of Natural Resources said it is prepared. Karen Ripley said there are 700 employees at DNR who are trained to fight fires besides doing other jobs.

 They are joined on the fire lines by inmates from correctional camps who are trained as firefighters. Local fire districts can also step in as needed. One hundred acres of a tree farm burned over the weekend near Morton in Lewis County. Randle fire chief Jeff Jaques was there, driving a water truck.

 Jeff Jaques said he left volunteers to answer emergency calls back home while he helped state crews. He said he's "glad to help. This is good training, a good experience for our crews." The state normally hires 400 seasonal firefighters each year. Most of them report for work in June and train for a couple of weeks so that they can be ready to fight fires by the Fourth of July.