Murkowski Launches Congressional Inquiry into Stuart Creek 2 Blaze
Senator Sees Defunding of F-16 Transfer Pass Full Appropriations Committee, Adds Language to Promote Safeguards in Procedure
WASHINGTON, DC — Senator Lisa Murkowski today leveraged her position on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to add language to the FY2014 Defense Appropriations committee report requiring the United States Army to explain why the live artillery exercise believed to have started the 85,000 acre Stuart Creek Fire was allowed to proceed despite warnings from the Alaska Fire Service and the Fort Wainwright Garrison that wildfire risks merited postponement of the exercise. The Stuart Creek 2 wildfire, which threatened the Two Rivers residential community, has cost more than $19 million to date.
Additionally, the provision barring federal funds from being used to transfer the F-16s from Eielson Air Force Base to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson – requested by Senator Murkowski via two separate requests in April and July – was included in the final bill as well.
In light of the Stuart Creek 2 wildfire, questions remain about responsibility for its source. Seeing an opportunity to protect Alaska’s lands from future risks, Murkowski added the following language to the FY2014 committee report:
The Committee is deeply concerned about reports that the live fire artillery exercise was permitted to occur notwithstanding the advice of the Bureau of Land Management’s Alaska Fire Service and the Fort Wainwright Garrison that it be postponed due to the high potential for wildfire. Accordingly, the Committee directs the Army to review its procedures for determining when to postpone exercises due to wildfire risk in light of the outcome of its investigation into the Stuart Creek Fire, and to report to the congressional defense committees on its conclusions no later than April 15, 2014.
Having passed out of Committee, the bill is now ready for full Senate consideration.