Inslee’s Visit to Spokane County Amidst Wildfire Crisis

Gov. Inslee addressed the media while standing by Joe-David Veliz, a staff member with Lakeland Village, who he named “Washingtonian of the Day” for act of bravery in Gray Fire.
Photo Credit: Governor Jay Inslee

During Washington State’s wildfire crisis, Governor Inslee visited Spokane County. With the Oregon and Gray Fires continuing to ravage thousands of acres, Inslee’s presence allows him to better communicate the devastating effect on our state to secure federal aid. 

Washington State is grappling with a relentless wildfire crisis that has spurred Governor Jay Inslee into action. With over 34,000 acres state-wide consumed by flames over the past few days, the challenges in containing these fires persist. Of this staggering total, Spokane County bears the weight of contributing fires engulfing 20,156 acres as of today, August 21st, with the Oregon and Gray Fires. These blazes, unfortunately, remain active, with the Oregon Fire consuming land around the Elk area and the Gray Fire menacing the Medical Lake area. Oregon Fire is 0% contained, and Gray Fire is 10% contained as of today. 

To assess the situation firsthand and offer assurance to affected communities, Governor Inslee undertook a visit to Spokane County. The governor’s schedule encompassed a comprehensive overview, including briefings at Lakeland Village and Spokane Falls Community College. The latter has emerged as an evacuation center for those upended by the Gray Fire. He also visited Riverside High School, which is an evacuation center for evacuees of the Oregon Fire. There, he met Glen Lockwood, an American Red Cross member with 49 years of service. Lockwood with Riverside School District superintendent Ken Russell, swiftly organized the high school as an overnight shelter, ensuring beds and essentials were readily available for people in need.

At Lakeland Village, Governor Inslee met on August 20th with state employees who had sprung into action to rescue their patients, ensuring their safety in the face of danger. While present, he also extended his condolences to residents seeking refuge at evacuation shelters, many of whom had lost their homes and belongings to the unrelenting fires.

Acknowledging the resilience of the Spokane County community in the wake of the Gray and Oregon Fires, Governor Inslee reaffirmed the state’s commitment to providing essential resources. He reiterated, “I’m here to reassure everyone that Spokane County isn’t facing these challenges alone. The state is committed to providing the necessary resources, and we’ll continue to collaborate with local authorities to evaluate the extent of the damage and determine the path toward recovery.”

The governor took the opportunity to extend gratitude to the emergency first responders who have displayed unwavering dedication in their efforts to contain the fires and uphold community safety. While expressing his appreciation, he emphasized their courage in the face of risk and highlighted the depth of the community’s gratitude for their selfless actions.

As Governor Inslee’s visit drew to a close on the 20th of August, he engaged with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. Their conversation centered on the assessment of damages and the prospect of securing federal aid.

Latter via Twitter, Governor Inslee expressed his gratitude for President Biden’s morning call on August 21st, wherein the president voiced his concerns over the devastating wildfires in Spokane County. The conversation further highlighted the collective efforts to secure federal aid to alleviate the gravity of the situation. Inslee also expressed the need to address climate change to prevent similar disasters in the future.

Washington State’s Wildfire Emergency Declaration
On August 19, 2023, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State issued an emergency proclamation (23-05) in response to an escalating wildfire crisis that has unfolded since July. The state has been grappling with abnormal dryness and high temperatures, creating perilous fuel conditions, resulting in ongoing wildfires across Western, Central, and Eastern Washington. This critical situation is expected to persist throughout August, September, and October.

To tackle the emergency, the Washington National Guard will be mobilized to provide assistance to local jurisdictions and state agencies in Central and Eastern Washington, as well as potentially other regions. The activation of the State Emergency Operations Center will facilitate the coordination of resources and aid state and local officials in mitigating the social and economic impacts caused by the wildfires.

Under the proclamation, the governor mandates the implementation of the Washington State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, directing state agencies and departments to utilize all available resources to support affected areas. Including the National Guard and the State Guard will be placed on active status to address the crisis and execute duties assigned by the Washington Military Department.

Governor Inslee’s emergency proclamation underscores the urgency of the situation, aiming to pool resources to safeguard public health, safety, and welfare and to manage the ongoing wildfire catastrophe. 

Sources:

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