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Methow Valley fires

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Jessica Johnson, 19, got hooked on firefighting in 1998, when she joined a rookies' firefighting program taught by veteran firefighters from Central and Eastern Washington.

"She was wild and outgoing and if she disagreed with you, you knew it," said Holly Dunham-Wheeler, Johnson's former swim coach at Yakima's West Valley High School. "But then she started firefighting, and she really grew up. She found herself, she found confidence, and it made her feel good."

After graduating from West Valley in 1999, Johnson enrolled in Central Washington University.

While she was still a teenager at the time of her death in the July 10 blaze, she was no rookie. With three years' experience fighting wildfires, Johnson was "prepared and good and safe enough to fight any wildfire," said Dave Leitch, deputy chief at the West Valley Fire Department. "She was physically strong, she could spin circles around the guys."

For a closer look at Johnson, see story.

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