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Mrs. MURRAY. Madam President, I come to the floor today to speak for a few minutes about the absolutely devastating wildfires currently burning through the farms, communities, and public lands of our home State of Washington.
As a lifelong resident of Washington State and the Pacific Northwest, I have always been aware of the annual risks and dangers that wildfires pose to our region. Every summer, a combination of rising temperatures, months of dry weather, and our State's obvious abundance of forest and fields have resulted in wildfires capable of threatening homes and businesses across our State. Each summer we have worked to become better and better prepared to help protect our communities.
But one wildfire burning this year is the single largest we have seen in Washington State. Since last Tuesday, massive wildfires covering hundreds of thousands of acres have ravaged our farm lands, our agricultural areas, our cherished public lands, and, most importantly, communities throughout Chelan County, Okanogan County, and others across eastern Washington.
I am talking about a massive wave of flames that has burned an area now four times the size of Seattle, which is our State's largest city. Even for those of us who have lived our entire lives with the reality of wildfires, this is unprecedented. So while I am here in what we call ``the other Washington,'' today, my heart, my thoughts, and my prayers are in Central and Eastern Washington. Even here on the Senate floor, I can't help but think of the firefighters and first responders and everyone who is neglecting sleep and rest to protect their communities. Most of all, I can't stop thinking about the families who lost their homes and all they own to this horrific disaster.
If there is one thing I know about our State, it is that we don't turn away from hard times or hard work. Over the last several weeks I have talked with a number of the local leaders in the communities that are facing these fires, including Sheriff Frank Rogers in Okanogan County, Sheriff Brian Burnett in Chelan County, and Mayor Libby Harrison in the small town of Pateros, where dozens of homes, including hers, have been lost to this fire. Every one of them told me that while their community is facing hard times, nobody is giving up. They have been doing everything they can to protect each and every person in their rural communities, and so far they have been able to do that.
I wish to share one story that speaks to what is happening in my home State right now. As I mentioned, this small town of Pateros has been hit very hard. They haven't lost any lives, but they have lost more than 100 homes and buildings throughout their community. But one building they did not lose was their school, which has always been to them the central place of their community, and it is now the central staging area as these fires rage on. As in many other small communities, the school in Pateros serves kids in grades K through 12, and last week that fire came within just a few feet of that school.
Firefighters and responders were working elsewhere. So the school could
easily have burned down, until a local man by the name of Augustine Morales decided to do something about it. He and a friend used hoses on the backs of their own trucks to fight back that fire and save their kids' school.
Augustine was interviewed by a local TV station and here is what he said:
Everything was going through my mind because I have my kids and I have to take care of my kids, and I [was] just thinking ..... if you die, I don't know what's going to happen.
So that is what so many people just like Augustine are facing right now in Central and Eastern Washington, and I know they will not be giving up.
In addition to our thoughts and our prayers, we have to make sure we are working to have all of the Federal resources they need available. I am thrilled the Senate supplemental funding bill that was released yesterday actually includes $615 million for firefighting efforts in Western States--money I requested along with my colleague Senator Cantwell and 10 other colleagues. But we know there is a lot more work to be done. We have to get that funding passed through the Senate and the House and to the President's desk right away.
I am really very pleased that early yesterday morning the President, in fact, made an emergency declaration that is going to help those communities fight these wildfires.
I know that I and Senator Cantwell and all of us are going to be working with our local officials and Federal officials all the way up to the President to make sure those communities get what they need.
Thank you, Madam President. I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
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