WASHINGTON – Today, Senators Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell and U.S. Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dave Reichert, Jaime Herrera Beutler, and Dan Newhouse joined together to write a letter to President Obama asking him to quickly approve Governor Jay Inslee’s federal emergency disaster declaration.
The members of Congress said, “The ongoing wildfires are affecting Washingtonians all across the state, endangering lives and property. Our first responders have acted with selflessness and courage, battling to keep our communities safe while putting their own lives at risk. Nowhere is this more evident than with the sacrifice of the three United States Forest Service firefighters whose lives were lost last night. That is why it is critical that we can support those still on the ground to the fullest extent as well as assist our communities as they rebuild and recover from their devastating losses.”
Governor Inslee’s request was made on August 19th. The full text of the Congressional letter of support is below:
August 20, 2015
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write to urge you to approve as quickly as possible the federal emergency disaster declaration requested by Washington Governor Jay Inslee on August 19, 2015.
As you know, Washington state is experiencing a historically intense wildfire season. Wildfires burning in Counties throughout Central and Eastern Washington have stretched our state’s wildfire fighting resources thin and have affected communities still recovering from last year’s Carlton Complex fire - the worst by fire acres burned in Washington state’s history. Hundreds of lightning strikes sparked numerous fires in the region over a period of six hours on August 13, 2015 and the National Weather Service projects that a similar storm system is moving into the area within the next two days. Taken together, wildfires this season have burned over 235,000 acres, 50 residences, 60 other structures, and currently threaten over 3,600 homes across eleven counties and four Federally-recognized tribes: Asotin, Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Klickitat, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Skamania, and Yakima Counties; and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Nation.
Major fires such as the Chelan Complex wildfire and the Wolverine Fire have burned over 58,000 and 40,000 acres, respectively, and threaten whole communities in the region. Local economies, still recovering from last year’s fires, have been further devastated. The Chelan Complex and Wolverine Fire have struck in the midst of the region’s economically vital summer tourist season and have further harmed an agricultural sector already weakened by extreme heat and drought. The destruction of the Chelan Fruit warehouse in Chelan alone may result in up to $80 million in losses and 800 jobs impacted. While thousands of firefighting personnel are working tirelessly to gain control of these fires, containment among major fires currently ranges from 0- to 30-percent.
We are proud of the first responders from multiple local, state, and federal agencies who have responded courageously to this disaster and mourn for the three firefighters who lost their lives combating the Twisp fire on August 19. Despite their heroic efforts and sacrifice, a disaster of this magnitude requires federal assistance. We therefore urge you to issue a federal emergency disaster declaration as soon as possible.
Thank you in advance for your quick attention to this matter.
Patty Murray Maria Cantwell
United States Senator United States Senator
Dave Reichert Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Jaime Herrera Beutler Dan Newhouse
Member of Congress Member of Congress