Lynnette Hamm, the mother of a fallen firefighter, believes it is truly appalling that staffers with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Capitol Hill had an office pool since 2003 to guess how many acres of land would be lost each year to wildfires. In addition to Hamm, whose son Caleb was killed last July, Federal Wildland Fire Service Association President Casey Judd is calling the practice "a shot to the gut". The FWFSA represents thousands of federal firefighters.
McKie Campbell, the Republican staff director for the committee, told The Washington Post after news of the office pool was first reported last week it has been stopped.
“While we’ve been burying wildland firefighters and aviation folks and citizens, this odd pool has been going on supposedly out of frustration with the U.S. Forest Service,” Judd said. “Well, let’s fix it.”
“How dare they!!” Hamm said in an e-mail. “These men and women put their lives on the line daily, and to be so belittled by something like this? I would be ashamed of myself. Maybe they should trade a ‘cushy’ office chair for a spot on the fireline, and let’s bet how long they last at it.”
“It will never happen again,” he (McKie Campbell) said in an interview Wednesday. “It was in no way indicative of disrespect for any of the folks who put their lives on the line to battle the fires.”
Grist.org, an environmental news service broke the news on January 5 and reported the pool was run by Frank Gladics a Republican staffer who, according to the Post, had been a firefighter. Here is more from Grist.org's Sarah Laskow:
On Tuesday he sent out 2011's results in an email that was perhaps forwarded a little too widely. (Grist managed to obtain a copy, after all.) Participants in 2011 ranged from lowly legislative aides to powerful staffers, like Bruce Evans, the Republican staff director for the Senate Appropriations Committee. The entrants Grist identified all worked on the Senate side of the Hill.
At best, this little stunt could be excused as gallows humor — a peculiar inside-the-Beltway bonding ritual for disaster wonks. Since wildfires level people's homes, imperil both residents and firefighters, and serve as a barometer for climate-change-driven havoc, the annual game might also simply be tone-deaf, tasteless, and heartless.
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