Gov. Jay Inslee announced today that President Obama’s Administration approved his request for a federal Emergency Declaration in response to the multiple wildfires burning across Eastern Washington.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency declaration means additional resources are on their way from the federal government to supplement state and local response efforts in areas affected by the wildfires, which began on Aug. 13.
“This declaration is welcome news for the communities on the front lines battling the wildfires,” Inslee said. “With the high danger the firefighters are experiencing it is crucial we maintain our communications and power equipment and I appreciate the quick review of our request from our federal partners.”
The emergency declaration will provide the state with assistance in several areas:
- Assistance and resources to ensure that transmitters and other equipment that provide the backbone for local emergency communications remain operational;
- Emergency power generation resources for critical local government facilities involved in response efforts;
- An Erosion Threat Assessment Reduction Team to provide scientific assessment of burned areas to address immediate threats to public health and safety and provide necessary information to prevent further damage in burned areas.
Expense reimbursements were not approved at this time.
Inslee requested assistance from the federal government on Aug. 19 with 11 counties and several tribes affected or threatened by fires. The state is now battling 16 large fires consuming nearly 400,000 acres across Eastern Washington. More than 100 homes have been destroyed with more than 5,000 homes still threatened.
Inslee had declared a state of emergency on June 26 in anticipation of a damaging wildfire season. There are thousands of personnel on the fire lines, including more than 400 members of the Washington National Guard and 26 aircraft in active use on fire suppression.
This assistance is for the counties of Asotin, Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Klickitat, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, and Yakima and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Kalispel Tribe of Indians, Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Nation.
Inslee today also amended an emergency proclamation to allow some fuel carriers delivering products to Okanogan County to extend their driving hours.
“The large number of wildfires in the Western United States has created a large scale fuel supply shortage for firefighting activities in Eastern Washington,” Inslee said. “Additionally, we’ve seen damage to critical infrastructure that has limited the ability of fuel trucks to provide adequate fuel supplies necessary to maintain firefighting activities. With the safety of our citizens still at risk, I’m taking every measure possible to ensure those fighting the fires have the resources they need.”
As noted in the amended proclamation, the Code of Federal Regulations and state law limit the number of consecutive hours a commercial motor vehicle driver can transport goods. The amended proclamation would make an exception for those drivers delivering fuel products from distribution centers in the Pacific Northwest to Okanogan County in support of firefighting efforts.
Inslee asked that motor carriers for the fuel industry use their best judgment in operating under this exemption in a manner that ensures public health and safety. The exemption continues through Sept. 10, 2015.
The State Emergency Operations Center at Camp Murray is continuing operations at Phase III activation in response to the wildfires.