Washington lawmakers issue plea to administration as wildfires burn across the state
A coalition of Washington lawmakers sent a letter to federal officials this week, pleading with them to visit the state and hear from local leaders to discuss concerns related to wildfires.
An estimated 14 major fires burned in Washington just last week alone, nine of which were located in Okanogan County. That includes a large, still-active fire along Lake Chelan, which has over 500 homes evacuated.
On Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier joined her Republican colleagues Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse in calling on USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland “to visit Central Washington to see the destruction wildfires have caused in the last 12 months.”
“We urge you to come to our districts in Central and Eastern Washington to meet with local leaders and hear directly from them on the challenges we continue to face,” their letter reads, in part. “We hope to find common ground and develop new strategies to prevent and protect the lives and land that continue to meet these disastrous challenges.”
“This is not the legacy we want to leave our children,” they added.
In late July, Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz detailed how the state had already hit an all-time record for the number of fires so far this season, coming in at “almost double the 10-year average” for that period of time. That’s also led to neighboring communities in Okanogan County experiencing the worst air quality they’ve ever seen in 15 years of available data.
Schrier, Newhouse, and McMorris Rodgers cite a series of factors that have fueled this trend, including extreme heat, ongoing drought conditions, and “outdated forest management policies.”
“For years, strategies to mitigate and fight wildfires have not yielded results – just look at the amount of damage that has occurred in Central and Eastern Washington over the last six years,” they noted. “Federal agencies must act now to address these devastating wildfires.”