Proposed Farm Bill provisions would help state maintain access to wildfire emergency resources
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Proposed Farm Bill provisions would help state maintain access to wildfire emergency resources 
 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
                                                                                                         
May 16, 2013

Proposed Farm Bill provisions would help state maintain access to wildfire emergency resources
Commissioner Goldmark applauds Washington delegation’s leadership

OLYMPIA – As Washington State experiences an early start to wildfire season, amendments were added to the U.S. House and Senate committee versions of the Farm Bill yesterday that will help maintain the ability to call in extra firefighters from other states when resources are stretched thin.

“With the leadership and support of Representative DelBene and Senators Cantwell and Murray, these Farm Bill amendments will help protect public safety, homes and forests against severe wildfires,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, “I am deeply thankful for their assistance.”

In 2012, Washington wildfires burned over 300,000 acres, destroying 66 homes, hundreds of outbuildings and other property. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) leads the state’s wildfire suppression effort, but because of the fires’ size and complexity, firefighters and other resources were also called-in from out of state. Fire crews from at least 17 other states – including nearly all western states, and some as far away as Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, and Missouri – aided DNR in the effort.

When wildfire season heats up and there are multiple large fires burning at once, local, state and regional resources can become taxed to their limit. A national partnership system between states and the federal government kicks in. Firefighting crews, aircraft and other resources from across the country can be moved through the system to where they are needed most.

The US Forest Service has traditionally made this exchange possible by serving as the intermediary for states to reimburse each other for their costs. The proposed legislation will clearly establish authorities to continue this practice.

“The authority to facilitate moving resources around the country is absolutely critical,” said DNR State Forester Aaron Everett, “I am especially concerned this year because our fire season started early and is projected to be long and severe.”

The most recent statistics available from the National Interagency Fire Center reported that, in 2009, states filled more than 6,500 orders for aircraft, 12,042 orders for equipment and more than 5,000 orders for crews in response to wildfire and other incidents. During that same year, states filled nearly 12,000 orders for key personnel, including technical specialists and supervisors in response to all incidents.

The U.S. House and Senate Committees on Agriculture are holding hearings to mark up the Farm Bill this week. Language supporting the wildfire authority now appears in both Committees’ versions of the bill. Representative DelBene is a member of the House Agriculture Committee and sponsored the language amendment. Senators Cantwell and Murray supported a companion amendment in the Senate Agriculture Committee through contact with the Committee Chair and staff. After the Committee mark-up process concludes, the Farm Bill moves to Congress for consideration.

DNR’s wildfire mission
Administered by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, DNR is responsible for preventing and suppressing wildfires on 12.9 million acres of private, state and tribal-owned forestlands. DNR is the state's largest on-call fire department, with more than 1,000 employees trained and available to be dispatched to fires as needed. During fire season, this includes over 700 DNR employees who have other permanent jobs with the agency and about 400 seasonal employees hired for firefighting duties. Additionally, Department of Corrections’ adult offenders and Department of Social and Health Services-Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration juvenile offenders participate in the DNR correctional camps program. DNR also participates in Washington's coordinated interagency approach to firefighting.

Media Contact: Bob Redling, Senior Communications Manager, 360-902-1149, bob.redling@dnr.wa.gov  

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