Hawkins’ legislation seeks to help schools recover after wildfires

Legislator: Rep. Brad Hawkins
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Legislation is under consideration in Olympia that would help schools recover after natural disasters, such as the Carlton Complex Fire last July in North Central Washington. John Sattgast reports from Olympia.

Sattgast: More than 250 thousand acres burned.  Nearly 100 homes were destroyed in Okanogan County, including 40 in Pateros. And losses exceeded 27-million dollars, including more than two-million dollars in damages to the Pateros School District. The district’s superintendent, Dr. Lois Davies witnessed the devastation as the town of 650 people was engulfed by a massive wall of fire.

Davies: “We went from the daylight of a, of a summer afternoon into the twilight of smoke-covered skies, as the fire rolled down the hill, much like a waterfall, and then came across the hill and began to consume our town.”

Sattgast: Davies was in Olympia Thursday and testified before the House Education Committee in favor of House Bill 10-03. East Wenatchee Republican State Representative Brad Hawkins introduced the measure to help school districts identify existing government emergency funding sources.

Hawkins: “They were a bit overwhelmed – understandably so with just who to contact and what agencies might be on point and what if any financial resources might be available to them.”

Sattgast: In the days following the fire, the school served as a Red Cross distribution center, helping victims get clothing and feeding more than 2,000 people. But the building itself had sustained smoke damage and holes were burned through the roof. Superintendent Davies looked everywhere for assistance, but found no single coordinated place to go for help.

Davies: “Everywhere I asked, ‘Is there a checklist that I can look to see what do I need to see so that we can safely open school?’ I worked with the Health Department and others. Everyone gave us ideas and thoughts and support. We were very appreciative. But we did not have a checklist, nor did we have a resource list from any of their sources.”

Sattgast:  Hawkins’ bill would provide a model policy for school districts to know who to contact, what to do first, and how to get financial and informational support. He’s hopeful the measure can be a starting point for schools in the event of a natural disaster. The measure is awaiting action by the House Education Committee.

John Sattgast, Olympia.


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