Audit: State overpaid private contractor to fight 2014 fire

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A state accountability audit has found that the Washington Department of Natural Resources overpaid a private contractor to fight a 2014 north-central Washington wildfire.

The Carlton Complex fires began in July 2014 in the Methow River valley of Okanogan County. They burned about 400 square miles.

The News Tribune in Tacoma reports that the audit, released Thursday, shows the contractor repaid the $9,000. Auditors say the error shows that in the department's haste to respond to the fire, officials failed to follow proper procedures.

Auditors say the DNR acted so quickly it failed to establish reimbursement rates for a private contractor in advance and in writing, as is required by department policies.

DNR spokeswoman Sandra Kaiser says the emergency contract cited by the audit was signed in "dire circumstances."