As of Tuesday, January 13, 2015
OMAK Last week, public records released by the state Department of Natural Resources showed the agency had reimbursed Gebbers Farms approximately $1.9 million for fire fighting costs during the Carlton Complex wildfires. The key word here is “reimbursed.”
Across the state, those records have raised a few eyebrows. And even a few residents have questioned why the largest family owned farm in the nation would receive that kind of money while others without financial wherewithall are still waiting for assistance.
But the reimbursement shouldn’t be a point of consternation, here or elsewhere.
When the wildfire raced from the Methow Valley toward Pateros, Brewster and Malott, Gebbers Farms stepped up. The family farm put its own resources on the line — personnel, family members, equipment, you name it. Family patriarch Dan Gebbers ultimately died of injuries he sustained defending his community, his family and his company from the raging fire. That’s a price that can never be recouped.
Gebbers Farms’ effort, and the effort of its employees, supporters and volunteers, may be the only reasons Brewster is still intact today. And they may be the only reasons firefighters were able to get a handle on the parts of the blaze before it could reach Malott.
The reality of the situation is that Gebbers Farms did what needed to be done, when some state crews hiding behind command and environmental rules did not. Had the company not pushed all the resources it could muster to the forefront of the fire fight, much more of our county would have burned. The evidence of that is the “doughnut hole” in fire maps, showing the area Gebbers Farms employees and crews defended.
We hope that the decision to reimburse Gebbers Farms for the costs it incurred protecting our communities is a model the state will follow for other reimbursements. We hope that state officials will quickly follow up with efforts to help fire-affected area residents and businesses get back on sound financial footing. And we hope that the grousing about the reimbursement stops.
Gebbers Farms should be commended for its fire fighting efforts. The reimbursement cost taxpayers far, far less than had the company stood by and watched the Brewster area burn.