Wildfire training: Several counties using new chopper equipment

ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- Kittitas County is planning a new emergency response this year. The focus was to prepare for the busy fire season and to prevent another horrific wildfire like the Taylor Bridge Fire.

Wednesday dozens of emergency responders geared up to prepare for the worst. They're members of the Cascade Mountains Consortium. Firefighters, police and paramedics from several different counties, including Yakima and Kittitas attended the training session held at West Ellensburg Park to improve their techniques when a helicopter is involved.

Wildfires like last year's Taylor Bridge Fire is still fresh in a lot of their minds. Fires destroyed more than a half-million acres across the state and engulfed over 60 homes. At a local level, this showed immediate need to train emergency responders how to act fast and to property utilize the equip helicopters.

This training marks the first time responders from five different counties came together. For them, communication is key.

"They have the big picture in the sky and it definitely gets your heart beating. There's nothing quit like seeing a large fore coming at you", said Corporal Ellis Nale.

This year, the team has new equipment. The biggest improvement is a new hoist that makes it possible to rescue up to six people at once. And, do it fast.

The team is working to get more equipment to make it possible to carry more water. An inability to drop water fast enough hurt last year's firefighting effort.

The Cascade Mountains Consortium will continue to meet for training sessions through the summer.