SPOKANE, Wash. --- KREM 2’s Whitney Ward sat down and talked to two candidates vying for the Department of National Resources Commissioner of Public Lands position.
Ward asked Republican Steve Mclaughlin and Democrat Nancy Franz tough questions, including what they plan to do differently to keep Eastern Washington safe.
KREM 2's Ward: In 2014, hundreds of families lost their homes to the Carlton Complex wildfire. Many of them had the same complaint of DNR, that DNR crews sat idly by while their homes burned. Later many of those crews said they were specifically told not to engage. Current Commissioner Peter Goldmark told me personally it is not the responsibility of DNR firefighters to do structure protection. Do you support that? Or do you believe that firefighters should do everything they safely can to prevent loss and damage?
Mclaughlin: First off, I have been trained in firefighting. I've fought fire, and I've trained about 2,000 incident responders in this state of Washington. I disagree with that. In fact, we went out last summer to help do reconstruction in Okanogan, and provide relief to people in Eastern Washington. We found one man who pleaded with DNR firefighters to save his home. They refused. He lost everything. I am completely against that model. And I will fix it when I get in, because I know how to fix this, which makes me uniquely qualified in this race to work those types of fire management issues.
Franz : I believe it's the responsibility of the state, as well as everyone, to do everything we can to make sure we don't have the spread of fires. Okay. So that means we need to make sure that the state is collaborating and coordinating with local fire departments and with property owners. Once it passes one line, it has no boundaries. So, it's going to keep on going. We all need to be coming together, and making sure that we're not drawing lines, because we can't do that with fire. I'm committed to taking a collaborative approach, that is coordinated, so we can be more effective, so our fires don't get larger, and more out of control, and not as catastrophic.
KREM 2's Ward: But do you think it was the right call to say that firefighters should not engage? Or should they do more?
Franz : No, my point was to say that, no. We should make sure that we are stopping fire no matter where it is, and working with our local fire departments and our property owners to make sure that happens.