Gov. Justice signs bill allocating $4 million for new firefighting equipment, renames Region Four Division of Forestry office for fallen forester

BECKLEY, WV — Gov. Jim Justice held a ceremony today at the West Virginia Division of Forestry (WV DOF) Region Four Headquarters in Beckley, where he signed SB 1032, which passed in the recent Special Session of the West Virginia Legislature, providing $4 million toward new equipment. 

During the signing, Gov. Justice also announced the Region Four office will be renamed the Cody J. Mullens Region Four Headquarters. Mullens, 28, of Mt. Hope was killed in the line of duty in April 2023 while working to contain a forest fire near Montgomery. His family was present at the event and received ceremonial bills in his honor.

“This year, we mourned the tragic loss of this brave West Virginian who gave his life to protect our state and her people. Today, we honor his life, his service and his sacrifice,” Gov. Justice said. “This bill will help our brave foresters get the equipment they need to continue to be on the front line of defense, both during spring and fall fire seasons and throughout the year.”
These funds will be used to purchase equipment to assist WV DOF foresters in fighting wildfires. The new equipment will include woodland dozers, fire engines, water tank trucks, Utility Terrain Vehicles (UTVs), and thermal drones. 

“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Gov. Justice for his unwavering support in funding critical firefighting equipment for the division,” Assistant State Forester Jeremy Jones said. “Your commitment to the safety and protection of our beautiful forest is deeply appreciated by the Division of Forestry. This historic investment will provide severely needed modernization to our wildfire program and equipment. Purchasing state-of-the-art equipment secured by these funds will enhance the capabilities of our firefighters, ensuring that we can respond swiftly and effectively to the ever-growing wildfire danger.”

In addition to protecting West Virginia’s forests and fighting wildfires, crews from WV DOF volunteer to assist with wildfire relief efforts in other states. Recently, a crew of 20 WV DOF personnel trained for wildfire suppression left on August 1, 2023, to help with wildfire suppression in Montana. The team is assisting the Northern Rockies GACC (Geographic Area Coordinating Centers) with containing a fire at the Tin Soldier Complex in the Flathead National Forest in Montana. The fires associated with the Tin Soldier Complex were started by lightning on Saturday, July 30.
“While West Virginia’s fire season will officially begin on October 1, other parts of the country already have a very active season. WV DOF is tasked with preventing and suppressing wildfires within the state; however, during the offseason, our Foresters assist with fire suppression efforts in other parts of the country,” Jones said. “They must attend rigorous training courses and maintain qualifications to be part of a western fire detail.”

WV DOF has also dispatched crews to various single-resource assignments this summer in Arizona, California, Michigan, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Assignment to a western fire crew detail is voluntary; most crew members are on assignment for 14 days.

“I am proud of our West Virginia Foresters for answering the call to serve in other states,” Secretary of the WV Department of Commerce James Bailey said. “We are fortunate to have the capacity to assist during this time of year, and it is important to help these vital efforts across the nation.”