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August 20, 2004

Message from the Governor

Yesterday I took a helicopter ride over the Fischer Fire in Chelan County, four miles southeast of Leavenworth. I wanted a close–up look at the damage inflicted by this wildfire and the ongoing threat that it poses. Nearly 13,000 acres of this beautiful area have burned and the blaze continues. The destructive power is shockingly evident. It is especially dismaying that this inferno was caused by human carelessness. Our hearts go out to those who have been forced from their homes because of the danger—and who don't know whether they will have a home to return to when it’s over.

Gov. Locke and Incident Commander Bob Anderson

I also met with firefighters at the fire command center in Leavenworth. It was an honor to talk with some of the brave men and women who are battling this massive blaze. There are more than 1,600 firefighters working tirelessly day and night to contain the fire and protect the surrounding terrain—and about 300 homes and other buildings in the evacuation zone. The fire is 30 percent contained.

Firefighting on such an immense scale demands a collaborative effort. The Fischer Fire is being fought by a multi–agency team, including the United States Forest Service, the state Department of Natural Resources, the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office, and Washington Fire Services. We are very grateful to all of these groups for their hard work and close cooperation in combating this fire. I know the people of Washington join me in thanking these agencies.

Quote of the Week
“I applaud the heroic efforts of the many firefighters working to control this enormous blaze. My sympathies go out to the residents who have been forced from their homes.”
—Governor Locke, August 19, 2004

An average of 106,400 wildfires break out each year in our country. Some 4 million acres are consumed. Many believe that lightning is a major cause of wildfires, but 9 out of 10 are started by people. That should make all of us more than a little angry.

Gov. Locke meets with firefighters

But more importantly, it should remind us that preventing wildfires is everyone’s responsibility. Campfires, debris burning, careless discarding of smoking materials, barbeque coals and equipment operation are leading culprits in human-caused wildfires. These are activities nearly all of us either participate in or encounter. With wildfire season fully upon us, it’s especially important that we remain aware of wildfire risks and assume personal responsibility for preventing wildfires.

We salute the firefighters at the Fischer Fire and elsewhere who routinely risk their lives to protect the residents and property of our state. Let’s do our best to help them by minimizing fire risks and preventing human–caused wildfires.

Gary Locke
Gary Locke

Governor’s Priorities
News Highlights

Washington Students Among Nation’s Best
Washington ranks third in the nation in performance on the ACT college–readiness exam, according to results announced this week. The ethnic and racial diversity of Washington students taking the ACT continues to increase as well. In 2004, more African–American, Asian–American, Hispanic and Native American students planning for college opted to take the ACT than in previous years. The ACT is one of two widely recognized exams used to gauge readiness for college. It measures student preparation for college in English, reading, mathematics and science.

Protecting Drug–Endangered Children
A new plan for protecting children who are present when a methamphetamine drug lab is discovered was presented at the state's fourth annual “meth summit” in Redmond last week. The plan is a tool for counties dealing with drug-endangered children. The procedures call for law enforcement to take children found at a meth–lab crime scene into protective custody and to notify Child Protective Services immediately. The children are then tested for traces of methamphetamine. Tests results help direct any needed medical care for the children, and are used in prosecuting those who exposed the children to the toxic chemicals. The plan is available on the Department of Health Web site.

SEED Money for Environmental Education
The Puget Sound Action Team is making SEED (Small Environmental Education Dividend) money available to individuals and organizations. Individuals and groups, including businesses, watershed and salmon groups, tribal and local governments, schools and others may apply for up to $4,500 in SEED money. The money is used to conduct public involvement and education activities to help Puget Sound. In total, the Action Team has $40,000 of SEED funding available for projects that start this fall. Applications for the funding are on the Action Team's Web site, and they are due to the Action Team by Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2004.

Success Story: Retirement Systems Wins National Award
The Department of Retirement System's (DRS) new enrollment brochure for the Deferred Compensation Program is being honored by the National Association of Government Defined Contribution Administrators (NAGDCA). The organization will present its Leadership Recognition Award in Effective Communication to agency representatives at the NAGDCA annual conference in September.

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