Fire season has seemed to pick up early this year. The Tribes spoke with Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz Wednesday, July 28th, at the Incident Command Center for the Summit Trail Fire in Inchelium. We, as a council, took time to reiterate our support for provisions contained in HB 1168. The bill addressed long-term forest health and the reduction of wildfire dangers. Of fundamental interest to me was developing a Wildland Fire Aviation Support plan with retardant loading and processing infrastructure located here in eastern Washington. The topography of the reservation can make it difficult to fight a fire, and because of the landscape, firelines could be set at a distance that allows the fire’s footprint to grow larger than I’m comfortable with.
It was upsetting to know that fires could close major access roads and evacuation routes for the Keller community residents. This incident highlighted to me the need to focus on keeping the ferry operational. I know members of my community use the ferry to access a high school education, access delivery and freight goods, and access emergency services. The Colville Business Council will meet with the Washington State Department of Transportation in the following weeks to discuss our concerns and provide information in hopes to resolve these issues.
Lastly, I’d like to mention that despite the commotion surrounding the fires, declining air quality, and transportation issues, the fish and wildlife program were able to release 119 surplus summer Chinook from Wells Fish Hatchery into the Sanpoil River near the 17 mi. rip rap and 21-mile bridge.
I’m proud of the work you’ve done, and I’m saddened that conditions haven’t supported a ceremonial release as we’ve had in the past.
Jack W. Ferguson