Former Pasco Fire Chief Tapped for Mudslide Panel in Washington

Aug. 03--Former Pasco Fire Chief Greg Garcia is looking forward to trying to ensure that the state does not see devastation again like it did in the landslide in Western Washington.

Garcia, 73, who retired as chief in 2008 after 13 years, was named as one of 12 members of a new state commission, and one of only two from Eastern Washington.

Gov. Jay Inslee's office said the group will review the March 22 landslide that killed 43 people along Highway 530 near Oso, as well as the emergency response to it.

The commission then will make recommendations to help with planning for potential similar events in the future.

Garcia, who still lives in Pasco, said he can look at the incident with fresh eyes and more objectively because he has no ties to the area near where the slide happened.

Inslee and Snohomish County Executive John Lovick wanted people who were not directly involved with the disaster to preserve the commission's independence.

"We're not going to lay blame or second guess anybody," Garcia said. "We're just going to look into the future."

The commission is to have its first meeting Aug. 15, and meet twice a month until December, when recommendations are due to the governor.

"It's nice that my qualifications worked for something," he said. "I've always wanted to help out in the community, whether it's mine or somebody else's."

Garcia was recommended to the governor because of his 40 years of experience as a first responder, said Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith.

"He has been on the front lines of many natural disasters, including mudslides and wildfires," she said.

Ricardo Espinoza of Pasco, a member of the State Commission on Hispanic Affairs, recommended Garcia for the landslide commission. Espinoza said Inslee wanted to have a diverse group of members. He also saw that one of the spots needed to be filled by a fire chief and immediately thought of Garcia.

"He had served Pasco very well, he had a long career as a firefighter," he said.

"There's still a lot of wounded souls and hurt in their community," he said. "So it is important to come out here with an open mind."

Eastern Washington also will benefit from the lessons learned, he said.

"It could happen here very easily if we had a lot of rain," Garcia said. "Don't forget there's a lot of sand out here. It won't be as bad as it's been on the west side because we don't build on mountain sides as much."

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543;; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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