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Governor thanks EMD, FEMA for disaster-related work

Governor thanks EMD, FEMA for disaster-related work

On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee thanked dozens of employees of the Washington Emergency Management Division and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. For the past four years, the agencies have operated a joint field office in Lacey, where they oversaw multiple federally declared disasters and distributed billions of dollars in aid to those who needed it.

The office is closing this week with a smaller crew transitioning back to Camp Murray to continue the work.

“Your achievements have been very significant on the policy perspective,” Inslee told about 60 employees gathered in a conference room and even more listening in via a Teams meeting. “The coordination that has gone out that you’ve led is truly amazing, not just with COVID-19 but multiple disasters. … There are thousands of stories across the state of Washington and thousands of people where you have turned those tears into moments of serenity and comfort. And I hope you internalize that because I know you do hard jobs and I hope when you go home at night, you feel that because that’s what your professionalism did. And I have seen it big time. My central reason for coming is to thank you for that.”

Inslee said during his tenure as governor he has consistently gone to meet disasters victims – be it a Marine looking for his lost saber among the debris of a wildfire in Wenatchee or families that lost loved ones from the State Route 530 landslide at Oso.

“What you did for this agency is great,” Inslee said. “What you did for the state is great. But I want you to realize what your professional lives have done because I go to meet these people. You haven’t had a chance to see it. I get to see the fruit of your labors.”

Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty noted that the joint field office in Lacey had been open since January of 2020 and has gone through seven federally declared disasters, including the pandemic, wildfires and severe winter storms. Jonathan Holmes, the regional public assistance supervisor, said that the office was starting to close down and then flooding started to happen in Whatcom and Snohomish counties in 2022 that required even more assistance.

“It’s truly magnificent and I know our state emergency management professionals have worked hand in hand with our federal partners in order to distribute nearly $3 billion to local governments and communities that have been impacted by those disasters,” Daugherty said.

Willie Nunn, the regional administrator for FEMA Region 10, thanked the governor for visiting and meeting employees.

“It was needed by this group and your words were heard as well,” Nunn said. “I would just say that it’s nationally known you have one of the best partnerships, relationships of working together. And it all starts with these people, right here.”

Inslee told the emergency managers that their work would be needed even more in the future.

“Our work is not done and unfortunately it’s going to increase,” Inslee said. “We’re looking to years in the state of Washington where our emergency response will dramatically increase in numbers and intensity. Because we have this monster chasing us, banging on the door, called climate change. And in the next several years, we’re going to have more floods. We’re going to have more fires. We’re going to have more heat intensity where you have the heat itself taking people’s lives. We’re going to have more cases where kids can’t go outside because of forest fire smoke. And these forest fires will become cataclysmic as it’s tinder dry. So the point is, we’re going to be busy. And the good news is I know you’re going to be there for the state of Washington. This is going to be in your grill for years to come and that’s why I am glad you’re here.”