LONGVIEW, Wash. — A Cowlitz County fire and rescue chief is getting a lot of practice fighting wildfires as he toils on a 138-mile blaze in Wyoming, one of roughly 45 large fires burning across the nation.
Chief Dave LaFave has taken a lead role at the fire near Douglas, Wyo., where he is overseeing a crew of about 700 firefighters.
LaFave is training to be an incident commander. He wrote in an email that when he is done with his work in Wyoming, he will be qualified to serve as the top emergency responder on the nation’s worst disasters, including a large-scale terrorist attack, oil spill or hurricane.
LaFave has been training for the federal qualification for years and has worked on several large blazes, including a fire near Winthrop, Wash., in 2006 and a blaze in Montana in 2007.
The Wyoming blaze is challenging because it involves very dry fuel, sustained winds of 15 to 25 mph and “very complex and extremely difficult terrain,” LaFave said Monday.
He said 280 homes are within the fire’s perimeter and another 320 homes within three miles of the flames.