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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I want to begin this email by offering my condolences to all those who have been affected by the devastating wildfires in central Washington. Hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed, and we continue to mourn the loss of three of our firefighters, Tom Zbyszewski, 20, Andrew Zajac, 26, and Richard Wheeler, 31.

I attended the memorial service for these men on Sunday in Wenatchee. It was very moving, and very sad. We lost three fine men that had so much of their lives left to live. Richard Wheeler had been married for just two-and-a-half years before he passed away. Likewise, Andrew Zajac had just married last November. Tom Zbyszewski had big plans ahead of him, and everyone knew him as a kind individual with a big heart. Their families have experienced a horrible loss, and words cannot adequately express our heartfelt gratitude for their sacrifice on our behalf.

As I listened to the families at the memorial service talk about each of these men, my thoughts went to the mismanagement of our forests and state lands. I believe we need to put together an aggressive plan to reduce wildfire risk in our state. This should include looking at ways to improve the health of our forests through insect control, as well as proper grazing and harvesting. We also need to reduce the amount of fuel on the forest floor. Finally, we need to look at how we respond to these massive fires, including how we utilize volunteers.

Cooperation with each of the agencies involved with fighting fires needs to be cohesive, and a change in management tactics is necessary for this cohesion to take place. The loss we have experienced should never be forgotten, and we should do everything in our power to make sure a crisis like this never happens again.

Please keep the families of Mr. Zbyszewski, Zajac, and Wheeler in your thoughts and prayers. I also ask that you do the same for firefighter Daniel Lyon, as he continues to recover after suffering burns to 60 percent of his body.

Washington Air National Guard refueling flight

I was asked to go on a refueling flight with the Washington Air National Guard, and jumped at the opportunity. We flew out of Boeing Field in Seattle in a KC-135 Stratotanker, and flew to Montana where we met up with a C-17 Globemaster III for a refueling hook up. It was an amazing display of formation flying by our Air National Guard. Seeing our planes hooked together just a few feet apart transferring fuel at close to 400 knots was something I’ll never forget. We have the strongest and most well-trained military with some of the best pilots and support personnel in the world. It makes you proud to be an American.

Washington Air National Guard refueling flight

Grant County and Lincoln County fairs a big success

I attended both the Grant County and Lincoln County fairs in the same week, and while it was somewhat hectic traveling between the two communities, it was great to see that rural America is still as strong as ever. Our county fairs are world-class, and essentially serve as virtual classrooms in the outdoors. They teach our children values, how to respect and care for animals, and also how to work together with others. Additionally, these fairs also allow them to learn where our food comes from and who provides it, which is especially important.

County fairs are vital to rural communities. They help bring our communities together, and offer an opportunity to catch up on the lives of others. Unfortunately, our fair funding was cut this year by more than 40 percent, even though I worked hard to keep the funding at the same level as before. These fairs have so much to offer, not only to local communities, but to the entire state as well. I’m hoping we can restore funding in the upcoming legislative session.

At the fair with my friends, Doug and Nancy Reuter.

At the fair with my friends, Doug and Nancy Reuter.

Recent tours

I was recently given a tour of Genie Industries, a worldwide corporation that makes a wide variety of products, including boom lifts, scissor lifts, aerial work platforms, telehandlers, and material lifts. Genie has offices in Redmond and North Bend, and also employs more than 1,000 people in Grant County. They make the world’s second-tallest lift, the Genie 180, which I had the opportunity to ride to the top. It is a great machine – if you’re not afraid of heights.

Another company I was honored to take a tour of was SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, which has a plant in Moses Lake. It is easy to see how carbon fiber will help build our future production of automobiles, and I am glad to see another clean industry using innovation to compete into the future.

Attending the Cle Elum Dam fish passage ceremony

I recently attended the Cle Elum Dam fish passage ceremony. The fish passage project was implemented under the Yakima Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan (YBIP), and is a result of many parties working together. We need more of this type of working together for the benefit of all.

Other items I’m focused on

There are many issues I am focused on at the moment, including water issues that range from a lack of water to, if you can believe it, too much water. I also continue to work with the state’s various substance abuse treatment centers to revamp the oversight provided from the state. We’re moving ahead with our fall plans for the Kids Kaucus. I started the Kaucus earlier this year to bring members of the public and private sector together to discuss how we can improve the outcomes and effectiveness of programs geared toward helping youth in Washington state. I also created the Fire Caucus this year, which is actively working on solutions to prevent major wildfires in the future.

Please continue to contact me with any comments, questions or concerns you have. My email address is tom.dent@leg.wa.gov and my phone number is (509) 766-6682 at my district office in Moses Lake. Please feel free to share my email updates with your family, friends and neighbors, and encourage them to subscribe. They can do so by clicking here.


Tom Dent

State Representative Tom Dent, 13th Legislative District
437 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(509) 941-2346 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000