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Monday, April 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Senators ponder how much is enough to prepare for wildfires

OLYMPIA – Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark had finished his pitch for an extra $24 million in his budget next year to fight wildfires when members of a Washington state Senate committee asked him a question rarely heard at the Capitol:

Don’t you need more money?

Sen. Brian Danzel, R-Republic, who was evacuated from his home and couldn’t return for three weeks, wondered if $24 million extra was enough to withstand another fire season like the last one.

“I don’t know what enough looks like,” Goldmark said. “This is a good first step.”

It includes money to train more firefighters, thin forests to prevent future fires, improve communication and expand aerial assets. It would be in addition to the $164 million the state spent fighting the summer’s record wildfires, which topped 1,500 around Washington.

Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, pressed Goldmark on whether he wasn’t being a bit too chintzy. Why only ask for $24 million, Chase inquired.

“You don’t build the capacity you need in a day or a season,” Goldmark said. “I want to be prudent about how I spend state dollars.”

Chase persisted: “I’m worried that we’re not putting enough money into this.”

Goldmark relented: “If you feel this isn’t enough, I encourage you to adjust it upwards if you see fit.”

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