PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As wildfires rage across the region, Washington Governor Jay Inslee gave stark warnings about the current climate crisis during a press conference on Wednesday.
“We have to recognize this is the summer of climate change,” Inslee said. He went on to say that anyone affected by the summer heat and fires is affected by climate change.
The governor declared a drought emergency to open up additional disaster relief funds.
“The worst thing about this is the direct loss of life of Washingtonians,” he said. Ninety-one Washingtonians died during the recent heatwave. “There are not enough air conditioners in the world to save us from climate change,” he said.
Inslee also talked about some of the other impacts of climate change happening right now in Washington.
“When you see our roads buckling, that’s climate change. When fish can’t be harvested — now dying in the millions — that’s climate change,” he said.
Experts are particularly troubled by the state of Pacific Northwest forests. They say this past spring, which was one of the driest on record, has left trees extremely dry. Another concern is the number of dead trees on the ground which were knocked down by an ice storm this past winter and are now drying out in the midst of soaring temperatures.
Inslee was joined by a variety of department heads and officials, including the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Hilary Franz, Washington State Department of Ecology Director Laura Watson, Washington State Department of Agriculture Director Derek Sandison, Washington State Department of Health Assistant Secretary Lauren Jenks, Washington State Climatologist Nick Bond and Washington State Department of Health Deputy Secretary for COVID Response Lacy Fehrenbach.
A wildfire burning in Southwest Washington has grown rapidly over several days.
The Lyle Hill Fire in Klickitat County is estimated to be about 3,000 acres and still 10% contained as of Wednesday morning. The fire began Monday night and the cause is under investigation.
The wildfire has prompted Level One (Get Ready) evacuations for the Centerville-High Prairie area from milepost 2 on Centerville Highway to Alder Springs. Officials say homes and orchards are threatened.
Over 100 personnel are involved in the firefighting efforts. The area reportedly lost all water pressure, so firefighters are forced to drive 12 miles out of town to fill water tenders and bring them back — a 24-mile round trip.
Earlier in the week, Inslee was down in Clark County exploring two new waterfront developments along the Columbia River.
Inslee started his Clark County visit at a waterfront project along the Columbia River in the Camas-Washougal area. An elaborate trail system including play areas and river access was recently completed and the development will now focus on the construction of new mixed-use buildings near the walkway that will feature residential and retail space.
State funds paid for much of the environmental cleanup of an old sawmill at the site, making way for the new east county development.