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News / Clark County News

Southwest Washington faces its first wildfire season without Larch crews on hand to battle blazes

In absence of local inmate crews to respond, many worry about what is expected to be a bad year for fires

By Lauren Ellenbecker for The Columbian
Published: April 6, 2024, 6:14am
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Crews from Larch Corrections Center had been a key part of wildfire response in Southwest Washington before it closed.
Crews from Larch Corrections Center had been a key part of wildfire response in Southwest Washington before it closed. (Contributed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources) Photo Gallery

The call came at 4 on a morning in October 2022. Paul Kalchik was a member of a Larch Corrections Center firefighting crew that was roused out of bed early to respond to a 2-acre fire on the south side of Larch Mountain, near Nakia Creek.

For two weeks, from dawn to dusk, Kalchik and his crewmates carved deep into the earth, trimmed brush and extinguished hot forest debris in their path.

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