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Washington National Guard members begin training for wildfire season

Two hundred members of the Washington National Guard are getting training to work the front lines of wildfires this season.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Pandemic deployments for the Washington National Guard have placed members at food banks, COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics, and on guard at the state and U.S. Capitols.

Their next potential mission: fighting wildfires.

Normando Maldonado, 18, learned how to operate a pump, hose and flares during a one-day training session at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Tuesday.

“This will get me ready,” said Maldonado, who wants to go to college in the fall to become an EMT/paramedic.

He just returned from a three month deployment to Washington, D.C., assisting local and federal authorities with security following January’s riots and storming of the U.S. Capitol.

Maldonado said it was relatively quiet while he was deployed.

“If something were to happen, we were there,” said Maldonado.

Now, 200 members of the Washington National Guard are getting training to work the front lines of wildfires.

The state has requested help from the guard six of the last seven wildfire seasons.

“It’s really that force multiplier that happens,” said Brian Looper, Department of Natural Resources’ Fire Academy Manager.

Looper said the guard members are valuable in the field and easy to train.

“It’s definitely a unique group,” said Looper, “They have many other missions.”