Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz said the federal government shutdown could end up making wildfires worse in the state.
She said the shutdown has cancelled firefighting training sessions between state and federal crews.
“Each day of the government shutdown is another day lost in our efforts to prepare for wildfires and protect our communities,” said Franz, a Democrat. “This situation is quite literally a matter of life and death.”
Franz and her wildfire deputy, George Geissler, said along with increased wildfire danger across the country, the state can't rely on the federal government for resources like it used to.
That's one reason the Department of Natural Resources has requested a record $55 million from state lawmakers for wildfire preparedness.
“What can Washington (state) do for Washington?” said Geissler.
The additional funding would go towards hiring more temporary and permanent firefighters, adding two helicopters to the state’s firefighting fleet, and educating the public of the growing risk of wildfires.
Governor Jay Inslee’s budget proposal called for hiring fewer firefighters, but Franz said she was hopeful those figures would improve when House and Senate members negotiate their final budgets.