WALLA WALLA -- Firefighters took to the hills Monday to prepare for this year's fire season.
On a tract of rolling farmland north of Walla Walla, 87 volunteers spent hours in the dust and heat honing skills they will need to attack wildfires now and later this summer when fire season begins in earnest.
"The whole objective is to get everybody prepared for the wildland fire season," said Rocky Eastman, Walla Walla County Fire District 4 chief. "The whole point behind this is cooperation and working together."
During the exercise, volunteers maneuvered up, down and across steep hillsides, practiced directing water from handheld and truck-mounted nozzles onto target areas and worked at coordinating communications and improving teamwork.
The effort involved 37 vehicles ranging in size from 3,500-gallon water tenders to an ATV fitted with a 100-gallon water tank. Volunteers practiced in daylight and into the night, winding up about 9:30 p.m.
This was the third year the event has been organized by county fire chiefs and training officers, Eastman said. The farmland used for the exercise is owned by Dale Nelson, who said he was happy to give volunteers a chance to train.
"I drove a fire truck back in '71 or '73 with an old Army surplus truck," he said as he visited with firefighters before they headed out Monday. In those days, he said, "you never got a chance to train in the field. So if they want a field to train in, they can have it. This gives them a whole heck of a lot of training in the hills and dirt."
Andy Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8318.