The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will conduct a wildland fire season flying rehearsal tomorrow (Wednesday, May 17) in Kittitas County.

The exercise is scheduled to occur in the Naneum Ridge area north of Ellensburg from noon to 5 p.m.

The event is designed to train and sharpen the skills of both air and ground personnel with the DNR and will include exercises related to airspace deconfliction and supervision, enhancement of interagency operations, streamlining of attack protocols, and testing equipment.

DNR spokesperson Thomas Kyle-Milward says there will be a variety of aerial vehicles utilized for the rehearsal.

"We're going to have multiple helicopters and a fire boss coming out of Yakima. We're going to have an air attack platform coming out of Wenatchee. And we're also going to be using a tanker, a scooper, and a single-engine tanker out of our Moses Lake location."

Kyle-Milward says in addition to the many aircraft in the area, the public will also notice other elements of the exercise as well.

"The exercise will include the use of artificial smoke with no live fire. But that smoke is essential to closely replicate wildfire conditions."

Smoke from the Naneum Ridge area is expected to be highly visible over a large area of lower Kittitas County during the exercise.

Commissioner of Public Lands and Washington gubernatorial candidate Hilary Franz will hold a press conference at Bowers Field in Ellensburg prior to the drills to discuss DNR projections, preparations, and expectations for the 2023 fire season.

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