Former prison camp to be burned for training

ARLINGTON — A former prison camp where inmates once learned to fight forest fires has a little more training to offer before it is razed and the site replanted with trees.

A rural Arlington fire district plans to burn down Indian Ridge Correctional Facility, once a 180-bed minimum security camp that provided inmate crews to fight forest fires and do other work in the woods.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Rick Isler said.

The fire district is working with the state to iron out a timeline. Several of the buildings would be used for firefighting training over several weeks.

The buildings will allow volunteer firefighters to practice for real fire calls and to work alongside firefighters from neighboring fire districts, Isler said.

“It’s good to train together when you get that opportunity,” Isler said.

Indian Ridge was built as a work camp, providing labor for state Department of Natural Resources land. It was turned into a youth camp for juvenile offenders. Later, it was used to house low-risk county inmates during a Snohomish County Jail construction project.

The leased property will be returned to the Department of Natural Resources.

The site has stood vacant in recent years and became a target for vandals, metal thieves and squatters. Law enforcement agencies also have used the abandoned campus for training exercises.

Last year, Indian Ridge was considered — and rejected — as a potential location for a 1,024-bed lockup for offenders making the transition from county jails into the state prison system. The state was looking to build a short-term center where inmates are assessed for physical and mental health issues as well as security concerns before being placed in other prisons.

State corrections officials said Indian Ridge can’t be expanded because of limits on the water supply and sewage treatment capacity.

The state Department of Corrections department has been leasing the 20 acres that made up the Indian Ridge campus for $10,000 a year.

That lease will end in December and the property will go back to the Department of Natural Resources, which is planning to reforest the land.

“DNR owns the land that Indian Ridge sits on, so they will assume responsibility for its future,” said Selena Davis, a corrections department spokeswoman.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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