GOP leader critical of McKee, General Assembly for not taking action sooner to prevent wildfires

This is a photo of National Guard helicopters filling up buckets of water at the Exeter Country Club to pour on the Exeter brush fire (WLNE).

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — House Minority Leader Michael Chippendale is being critical of Gov. Dan McKee and the General Assembly for not taking action sooner to prevent wildfires.

“For the past three years Republicans have offered thoughtful budget amendments and bills — which were either voted down, or not voted on — to fund ‘an ounce of prevention’ through our Department of Environmental Management’s (RIDEM) Forestry Division,” he said in part in a statement Monday.

Chippendale said “we were lucky” that all the recent brush fires didn’t happen at the same time.

“Lucky that no lives were lost. Lucky that all but one evacuated resident’s homes remained intact,” he said. “Lucky that 200 firefighters (including responders from Massachusetts and Connecticut) were available to extinguish the blaze and there were no major injuries.”

The House minority leader said this needs to change.

Chippendale said he’s proposing a bipartisan bill that’s requesting $180,000 to fund Conservation Districts — statutory organizations housed under the umbrella of the Department of Environmental Management.

He said this will go a long way in helping these groups manage forested communities.

Chippendale said about 900 acres have burned in the three recent fires.

“The only fire that needs to be lit right now is with our state officials in prioritizing funding for our core government functions this session,” said Chippendale.

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