Western Governors Request Federal Wildfire-Prevention Help - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Western Governors Request Federal Wildfire-Prevention Help

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KENNEWICK, WA-  The state Department of Ecology is warning people in Eastern Washington about a potentially dangerous fire and dust storm season ahead.

Thunderstorms and high winds are expected, threatening our area and it is only a matter of time before they hit.

"As a result of the low snow pack and low moisture and the higher temperatures taking the moisture out of the soil and vegetation, so early, there's definitely higher potential than usual for dust and fire events. Should these conditions continue, they might create those storms," explained Robin Priddy with Benton Clean Air Agency.

The Department of Ecology is saying we will have even more dust storms than normal. So much so, they are recommending people carry dust masks as a precaution.

"Well. There's two ways of looking at it, we obviously had a drought season this winter. There wasn't a lot of rain to grow any new weeds, grasses, fuel for us, so on one hand, that's a great thing. On the other hand, it's still really dry," said Devin Helland with Benton County Fire District 1.

Now, Governor Inslee is asking for more federal funding. Last year alone, cost $100 million dollars to put fires out across the state.

"I mean, it's like telling when somebody's going to have a heart attack. If we could predict what we have coming, then we wouldn't need a lot of money at all," explained Helland.

Right now, policy constraints are forcing the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior to to borrow funding intended for other uses.

"Fortunately, dust storms are typically pretty short term events, so you don't have to lock yourself out for a long time," said Priddy.

Firefighters have continuous training all year round, but many are already working on getting their red cards to be able to fight wildfires this summer.

"We've already had a couple fires that have gotten out of control, and done a lot of damage to neighbors properties. Which you will be held responsible for, if you let a controlled burn, get out of hand," said Helland.


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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Governors of Western states, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, have written Congress to ask for more money to reduce the threat of major wildfires.

In the letter sent Thursday, the Western Governors Association asked Congressional budget committee leaders to end so-called "fire borrowing," in which fire prevention funds are spent on firefighting. The letter says this practice has spent down money that should be used to reduce the damage from future fires and says the governors support a bill that would have the government manage fire disaster money like FEMA funds.

The letter follows an Aug. 14 letter the governors sent to the heads of both parties' U.S. House and Senate caucuses which noted the fire season has stretched to 60-80 days longer than historical averages.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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