“Citizen-soldiers and airmen” within the Washington National Guard have a busy weekend ahead of them with a statewide exercise planned.

Following last summer's devastating wildfire season, which destroyed thousands of acres of land and dozens of homes, the Guard will test its ability to respond to a large-scale fire during the annual Operation Evergreen Ember exercise, held this year from June 14-21.

Exercises will be held at Camp Murray in Lakewood, Yakima Training Center, the HAMMER Facility in Richland, and at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane.

“While no one wants to see a repeat of last summer's devastation, we can't control Mother Nature,” said Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, the state adjutant general. “It is the Washington National Guard's paramount duty to protect lives and property during emergencies. And we have been called to serve not only during wildfires, but to help during winter storms, floods and any other natural disaster.

“These hands-on training exercises ensure that our citizen-soldiers and airmen are prepared to assist during emergencies, and are able to provide an extra hand to our citizens and communities when they need it the most.”

Operation Evergreen Ember is a multi-echelon exercise that will test the Evergreen Guardian base plan and assess the effectiveness and performance of the Washington Army and Air Guard units. It will also test the Guard's alert systems, readiness and ability to support civilian authorities during natural disasters that require more resources than the state can provide.