Firefighters work at the Lick Creek fire near the Idaho and Oregon borders. (Photo provided by Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue)

Whidbey firefighters battle blazes off-island

Whidbey Island firefighters dispatched to wildfires in eastern Washington and Oregon.

Whidbey Island fire fighting units have been dispatched to Eastern Washington as wildfires blaze relentlessly across the state’s drier half.

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island sent two engines and a command vehicle with seven personnel to Yakima, where the Burbank fire is raging at a U.S. Army training center.

The NAS Whidbey Island team consisted of two sailors from the Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility in Boardman, Ore., and four firefighters and a chief from NAS Whidbey Island’s Ault Field.

As of press time, the Burbank fire spanned 13,000 acres and was 98 percent contained.

Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue has sent a wildland engine and three firefighters to the state’s southeast corner, where they are tackling the Lick Creek fire. As of press time, the 63,533-acre fire was 20 percent contained.

Central Whidbey Fire Chief Ed Hartin said Whidbey firefighters at Lick Creek are helping with structure protection and creating breaks in vegetation to halt the fire’s progress.

Hartin said while he can’t say definitively whether last month’s record-melting heat wave was the catalyst for the Lick Creek fire or any other eastern Washington blazes, “it certainly didn’t help.”

“It makes the fire conditions worse, and it makes the firefighting conditions worse,” he said.

Central Whidbey has also sent a water tender to Oregon with a combined Island and Snohomish counties task force. It began at the Grandview fire in Sisters, Ore. and was redeployed to the Bootleg fire in southern Oregon Thursday morning. As of press time, the Bootleg fire was 227,234 acres and seven percent contained.

North Whidbey Fire and Rescue also sent a small team off island; two firefighters and one brush engine travelled to northern Oregon July 2 to assist with the Wildland fire. Three days later, while the team was on its way home, it was redeployed to the Andrus fire near Cheney, Wash.

The North Whidbey team returned to the island on July 11, according to the North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Facebook page. As of press time, the Andrus fire was 232 acres and 100 percent contained.

So far, Whidbey Island itself has avoided any major blazes, but Hartin said that doesn’t mean island residents are in the clear. Large fires are unusual on Whidbey because of its natural moisture and proximity to Puget Sound, but as the climate heats up and dries out, the island’s abundant flora turns to potential kindling.

“We still can have significant fires, and the challenge is that people here don’t think about that a lot because we tend not to have them,” Hartin said.

The Bootleg fire burns in Oregon. (Photo provided by North Whidbey Fire and Rescue)
A firefighter battles the Lick Creek fire. (Photo provided by Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue)

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