Things must have been awfully slow at Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski's office, so slow in fact that some of her committee staffers thought it would be fun to run an office pool on how many acres would be destroyed in wildland fires.
Turns out this strange little diversion is an annual event run by Frank Gladics, who is Murkowski's top dog in handling national wildfire matters on the senator's Energy and Natural Resources Committee. A recent winner of the pool, in which bets are wagered, was longtime Murkowski aide Chuck Kleeschulte, who Murkowski named to the committee in 2009.
"Sometime sitting in a cushy chair in an air-conditioned office, taking wagers, while our men and women are out there fighting in the heat and hell of the fires, that bugs me," said Lynnette Hamm. "What do I think should happen to the staffers? Well, you don't want to print that."
"Such a 'pool' trivializes the loss of lives and property to wildfires and the heroic effort of our brave federal wildland firefighters each season who risk their own lives to protect our Nations's natural resources, its citizens and their real & personal property from the ravages of wildfire," wrote association president Casey Judd.
Robert Dillion, a spokesman for the Republicans on the resources committee, said the pool will never happen again and that Murkowski didn't know about it.
Dillions said that Gladics, a one-time firefighter himself, began the pool in 2003 because of his frustration with Forest Service wildfire management practices.
Gladics and other Murkowski staffers have apologized to the Hamm family.