JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – As one disaster peaks, another waits on the horizon.While 1,500 members of the Washington National Guard help with the COVID-19 response, another 1,100 were activated to support local law enforcement responding to civil disturbances in Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma and Spokane. This week, another 250 members of the Guard from across the state started training for the next potential natural disaster to affect Washingtonians: annual wildfire season.“This is an interest moment in time,” said Hilary Franz, commissioner of public lands. “Every year, we work tirelessly to get our teams ready, our local, state and federal firefighters ready, so they can be safe as they tackle our fire season. Our No. 1 priority is always for our firefighters and our communities to be safe from fires.”“We are already seeing that it might be a significant fire season,” Franz added. “We have had over 450 wildfires this year. If you look at the 10-year average, we have only had 252 at this point in time. We are preparing for a challenging and difficult season.”Since Exercise Evergreen Ember in 2013, the Washington National Guard has actively engaged with the Department of Natural Resources in the yearly fight against wildfires. After two historic wildfire seasons in 2014 and 2015, Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, the adjutant general, identified the heightened need to solidify the Guard’s role for fire season.“Our direction is to have 10 teams ready to go,” said Brig. Gen. Dan Dent, the commanding general, Washington Army National Guard. “We have already started conducting training with our Guardsmen over the last couple months. They will be ready.”The COVID-19 virus is providing Guard troops training on fires unique challenges. They must practice social distancing, monitor for fevers and wear masks while training and at fire camps.“This is a historic moment. We have never had to deal with the issue of keeping them safe from all the challenges that wildfire has while dealing with a deadly pandemic,” said Dent.“We are practicing social distancing and making sure that we are washing our hands and working together to make sure everyone is safe,” said Pfc. Daria Aleshina, 181st Brigade Support Battalion. “A lot of it is common sense practices, but it is just getting into a routine.”Since 2014, the Washington National Guard has activated more than 5,000 members in support of wildfire responses, including more than 1,500 in 2015 when the state experienced its worst wildfire season. That year, 1,541 fires across the state burned more than 1 million acres in central and eastern Washington, causing $253 million in damage.For more National Guard newsNational Guard FacebookNational Guard TwitterHow the National Guard is helpingPhotos of the National Guard responseLatest from the CDCU.S. responseWhite House-CDC response