Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee thought he was helping victims of wildfires when he handed out apples to people in 3 Washington counties, but it turns out he was bringing apples that had tested positive for maggot larvae into a pest-free zone.
It’s illegal to bring fruit that is under “apple quarantine” into a pest-free zone, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture. Bridgeport, Malden, and Omak, the towns where Inslee gifted the apples, all have an abundance of orchards that are pest-free zones, Fox News reported.
The apples that he had given to a retirement home in Omak tested positive for maggot larvae, and officials in Douglas County are now trying to track down the rest of the apples that Inslee handed out. (RELATED: At Least 7 People Reportedly Dead, Multiple Missing In Multi-State Wildfires)
“We are desperately seeking the help of all Bridgeport and Douglas County residents or anyone who may have any information to help us locate the apples that were brought to Bridgeport,” Douglas County said on Facebook.
“Apple Maggots are an incredibly serious pest and could have dire consequences for the orchardists of Douglas County if we are unable to find the infected apples and mitigate the effects immediately,” they added. “Douglas County orchardists, regulators, and processors have worked tireless[ly] to ensure that our area stays free of apple maggots and this event could have serious implications for the region. It is of the utmost importance these apples are safely disposed of immediately.”
Residents said that in their towns where apples are abundant, the fruit was the last thing they needed after wildfires devastated the state.
“A lot of people felt that as a slap in the face,” wildfire relief organizer Shannon Hampe said, according to KUOW News. “Him nor his office are in touch with what happens over here and who we are.”
Mario Martinez, a resident who has lived in Bridgeport for 45 years, said that “people are very, very upset.” Residents say that apples are abundant, and what they really need is supplies and money to help them rebuild.
“Some people are living in tents; some people with relatives,” Martinez added according to the report. “The most challenging thing is building back, you know. There’s people asking for money, which a lot of people don’t have it here.”
Inslee’s office issued a statement expressing regret for their mistake, which they call a “good reminder of the importance of awareness.”
“Last week Trudi and I wanted to express comfort for the communities suffering from devastating fires,” Inslee said according to Fox News. “When I visited some of these areas, I took some apples we picked from our tree in Olympia. We regret this mistake.”
“This is a good reminder of the importance of awareness around apple quarantine,” he continued. “We appreciate the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s efforts to help recover these apples and we are assisting to help make that happen.”
Anyone with information about where the apples could have gone is asked to contact Chelan-Douglas Horticultural Pest and Disease Board Director Will Carpenter at 509.667.6677 or Will.Carpenter@co.chelan.wa.us.