OMAK, Wash. — Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz is calling for both short and long-term support of communities across Washington that have been damaged or destroyed by wildfires.
Franz said the “time for talk is over, action is needed” after touring Omak on Monday, which was devastated by the Cold Springs fire last week. Franz also met with leadership from the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Colville Reservation, Chairman Rodney Cawston, local and state officials, and local fire chiefs and incident commanders.
“The devastation wrought here and elsewhere around the state by wildfire is unimaginable,” Franz said. “What I saw on the ground and in the eyes of residents and tribal leaders (are) both heartbreak at the devastation and resolve to rebuild and respond to the needs of their neighbors during this crisis.”
As of Monday night, the state has lost more than 807,000 acres to 1,439 wildfires in 2020. Thirteen large fires continue to burn and officials said more than 2,200 fire personnel are currently working to fight them.
“It’s not just one year; it’s year after year – and the time to take action at the pace and scale of wildfire is here, right now,” Franz said. “We can and must make proactive investments now to strengthen our wildfire response and restore the health of our forests so that this doesn’t happen again. We must invest in our communities ripped apart by fire and help rebuild them with understanding, care, and resources.”
Franz thanked the hard work of all firefighters and said the state, region, and country are all strapped for resources. She said she was particularly heartbroken over the loss of a 1-year-old boy last week and is praying for the recovery of his parents.
“We pray every single day that we don’t lose one life, one firefighter or resident. The news of the loss of Uriel, as a mother of three boys, hit me hard, as I know it did the entire community,” Franz said. “One death is too many. One community lost is too many. We must not forget Omak.”
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