Cantwell Amendment Injects Independence into Investigations of Firefighter Fatalities

USDA IG is charged with conducting independent investigations

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today announced that the Senate adopted her amendment putting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Inspector General in charge of investigating federal firefighter fatalities. The farm bill (H.R. 2646) passed the Senate today in a 58-40 vote.

"The Forest Service must embrace independent investigations, instill accountability within the agency, and improve its management and training," Cantwell said. "Requiring an independent investigation of firefighter fatalities is a step in the right direction."

According to the amendment's language, the Inspector General is charged with conducting "an investigation that does not rely on and is completely independent of any such investigation conducted by the Forest Service in each case of a fatality of Forest Service personnel that occurs due to wildfire entrapment or burnover; and submit to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Congress a report on the fatality."

"The Thirtymile fire tragedy put the spot light on the Forest Service and the cultural and institutional changes it needs to make," Cantwell said.