The Commissioner of Public Lands in Washington State is very disappointed that the legislature approved only one-third of the increase he requested to beef up the number of fire engines and helicopter crews in the Department of Natural Resources for initial attack on new fires.
Below is an excerpt from an article in the News Tribune:
State lawmakers didn’t hesitate to pay $70 million to cover the costs of fighting last year’s wildfires after the flames died down.
But now, as wildfires again rage across the state, the head of the state’s chief wildland firefighting agency says he’s frustrated the Legislature wouldn’t pay a fraction of that amount to help stop new fires from getting out of control.
Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said he got less than one-third of what he requested for early fire response in the state’s new two-year budget, which Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law late Tuesday.
“The Legislature has left me in a precarious position, with what I view as insufficient resources to meet the threat,” said Goldmark, who leads the state Department of Natural Resources. “Even in the face of (the current fires) and the threat to public safety that those fires contained, the Legislature didn’t seem to care about the public’s safety at all.”
On Friday, the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center reported more than a half-dozen large fires active throughout the state.
Fires scorched more than 400,000 acres in 2014, the most destructive fire season in state history.
Following that record-setting fire season, Goldmark requested more funding from the Legislature to staff additional fire engines and helicopter crews — about $4.5 million above what the agency received in its previous two-year budget for fire response. Yet in the state’s new $38.2 billion spending plan, Goldmark got only $1.2 million of the extra funding he requested.