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Oso, Eastern Washington fire victims call for changes

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- People who suffered through the Oso slide the devastating fires of Eastern Washington are pleading with state lawmakers for help in preventing the next disaster. State lawmakers got a serious warning about what needs to happen.

The huge landslide at Oso taking 43 lives was 8 months ago. The devastating wildfires in Eastern Washington destroying several hundred homes was 4 months ago. The emergency situation is over, but the lasting effects are now starting to kick in.

"The event for us is not over and I'd like to make that clear," said Twisp mayor Soo Ing-Moody.

State lawmakers invited the people most directly affected by the two disasters to tell them what's needed now and in the future, and they got an earful. There's outrage that state natural resources fire crews concentrated on the wildland fires and not the homes.

Okanogan county commissioner Ray Campbell told of an elderly woman, "They dipped water out of her pond on the side of her house with the bucket and flew across and didn't put water on her house when it burnt to the ground. That is unconscionable."

At Oso, there is outrage that it took days for the enormity of the disaster to get a full-scale response, with requests for such simple things as large numbers of body bags and portable lights being denied.

"That's kind of a crying shame when you look back and you were denied twice for assistance," said Pete Selvig, an emergency responder from Darrington.

Moving forward, the request is for better communication systems early on in disasters.

"Number one: communications improved. That's the bottom line because it was really difficult," said State Sen. Linda Evans-Parlette (R-Wenatchee).

And they have a request for quicker mobilization of county and state resources.

"We'll pull together solutions that will prevent all of this dysfunction from happening again, because it's going to happen again someplace," said State Sen. Jim Hargrove.

For the Oso area comes the call for more mental health resources with the lasting psychological damage done by the deadly slide. For Eastern Washington, a call for more low-cost housing to keep the people there so the communities can thrive again.

Two bills are already in the works for when the legislature opens in January. One to get what's called 'LIDAR' detection of slide prone areas and one to speed up mobilization of resources when disasters hit.

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