- Associated Press - Thursday, August 20, 2015

OMAK, Wash. (AP) - With wildfires straining resources, Washington officials say that for the first time in state history they’re coordinating help from residents who have and can operate equipment like backhoes and bulldozers to dig fire lines.

The Department of Natural Resources says its command posts have been inundated with offers. Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark says his agency appreciates the support, but he wants the fire officers on scene to be able to stay focused on actually fighting fires.

Instead, the agency has set up coordination centers in Omak and Colville, where equipment operators can get training in how to deploy emergency shelters and other basics. Some 80 equipment operators earned their certification at a training session in Colville earlier this month.

DNR says the centers will direct the citizens to where they can be useful without jeopardizing safety. Deployment to a wildfire will depend on the availability of professional firefighting staff to escort and direct the volunteers.

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