OLYMPIA, Wash. - Gov. Chris Gregoire Thursday signed an emergency proclamation declaring a State of Emergency for all counties east of the crest of the Cascades. The proclamation deploys additional state resources, including air support from Washington's National Guard, to help firefighters working to contain the blazes burning across Eastern Washington.
"This is one of the worst fire situations that I can recall during my time as governor," Gregoire said. "Firefighters have done a tremendous job to keep people safe, and keep the number of homes lost to a minimum. But they need more resources - especially as we expect weather conditions to remain less than favorable."
The proclamation signed today by the governor:
Directs state agencies and departments to utilize state resources and to do everything reasonably possible to assist affected political subdivisions in an effort to respond to and recover from the fires;
Orders into active state service the organized militia of Washington state to include the National Guard and the State Guard; and
Instructs the Washington State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate all event-related assistance to the affected areas.
Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Peter Goldmark requested additional air support, adding, "I want to thank the governor for her assistance in acquiring these valuable resources that will greatly assist us in putting out the fires in Eastern Washington."
"We are steadfast in our mission of protecting the lives and property in the affected areas, and we will do everything we can to prevent further destruction from the multiple fires still burning in Eastern Washington" said Major General Gary Magonigle, deputy director of the Washington Military Department and commander of the Washington Air National Guard.
Dedicated staffs of the Military Department's Emergency Management Division and the state departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health, Natural Resources, Social and Health Services, State Patrol and Transportation have been carrying out a 24/7 state emergency response since September 5th.
If needed, likely early responders from the Guard will be helicopters with water delivery capability. The CH-47 Chinook helicopter is capable of delivering a 2,000 gallon water bucket and operates with a four person crew. The UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter can drop 660 gallon water per bucket and operates with a 3 person crew. The pilots and crew of the responding aircraft are members of the Washington Army National Guard's 66th Theater Aviation Command. They have been specially trained and certified for water bucket missions by the U.S. Forest Service.
Gregoire noted in her proclamation that the multiple fires "currently threaten over 500 homes, resulting in numerous evacuations," and may result in additional damage to other homes, infrastructure, natural resources, and businesses. She also added that, "the availability of firefighting resources throughout the state and neighboring states is extremely limited due to existing and projected firefighting efforts throughout the region.