WASHINGTON, D.C. – Led by U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, 5th), recently the entire Washington state congressional delegation wrote to President Trump in support of Governor Jay Inslee’s request for a major disaster declaration for the state, as well as public assistance and individual assistance for Whitman County, following unprecedented recent wildfires in Eastern Washington and other areas. Additionally, with major fires continuing to burn across the Pacific Northwest, in the letter the lawmakers also offered support for emergency federal assistance in additional areas in the state impacted by wildfires that have cost lives, destroyed structures, forced thousands of families to evacuate their homes, and caused communities to lose power for extended periods. U.S. Representatives Adam Smith (D-WA, 9th), Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA 3rd), Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1st), Denny Heck (D-WA, 10th), Derek Kilmer (D-WA, 6th), Dan Newhouse (R-WA, 4th), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7th), and Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA, 8th) also joined the letter.
“As you know, Washington state is experiencing an unprecedented wildfire season,” the lawmakers wrote. “These disasters have stretched our state’s wildfire-fighting resources thin and have further devastated communities impacted by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”
“These wildfires have forced the evacuations of thousands of people, threatened 3,000 homes and structures, and deteriorated air quality to hazardous levels. Even more concerning, these numbers are expected to grow as wildfires are still wreaking havoc on our state and acreage burned is approaching levels seen in 2015,” the lawmakers added.
According to the Governor’s office, beginning September 6, 2020, 39 new wildfire starts burned approximately 330,000 acres in the state. This total is more than double the amount of acreage burned in the state last year. In the five-day period between September 7 and 11, an estimated 626,982 acres burned in Washington, which is more acres burned than each of the fire seasons from 2002 to 2019, excluding the devastating 2015 wildfire season. In particular, the town of Malden, a small, rural community in Whitman County, has seen their community reduced to ashes. An estimated 80 percent of homes and other structures in the town—including the town’s only post office, town hall, fire station, food bank, and library—have been destroyed or seriously damaged. At the same time, many Washingtonians impacted by these wildfires are also navigating with the health and economic consequences of the pandemic. Individual and Public Assistance for this town, granted by a federal emergency federal disaster declaration, would provide critical and timely support, particularly for eligible individuals who have evacuated and are unable to return to their homes and community.