Fire along Twisp River Road in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest in 2018. Courtesy photo

Fire along Twisp River Road in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest in 2018. Courtesy photo

Wildfire response: State unveils funding legislation proposal

Last year, Department of Natural Resources responded to record number of wildfires.

Two forest health plans are expected to help address the rising risk of wildfires across Washington state and guide funding priorities.

Statewide, some 2.2 million homes are exposed to wildfire. Last year, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) responded to more than 1,800 wildfires, a record high. The two forest management plans cover 10-year and 20-year horizons and were developed by the DNR. Fighting wildfires cost the DNR $146 million to fight in 2016.

Guided by the statewide 10-year wildland fire protection strategic plan, state legislators will be introducing a wildfire prevention and preparedness account this session which, when funded, will account for $126 million each biennium. It’s designed to ensure fire crews have resources to keep fires small, and will also provide funding to restore forest health.

“Wildfire poses a clear and present danger to the health of Washington’s people, environment and economy,” DNR commissioner Hilary Franz said in a press release. “As the leader of our state’s wildfire fighting force, I know we must continue to be proactive, not reactive.”

Several immediate funding targets were guided by the 10-year plan. These include $8.4 million for 42 full-time firefighters, $5.2 million for 15 fire engine leaders and fire trucks, and $25.6 million for a new helicopter. Some $15 million would be allocated to protect communities near wildland, $7.5 million to help property owners and small forest owners protect their property, and $1.9 million to train volunteer firefighters at local fire authorities.

On top of that funding, an additional $26.25 million will be used to accelerate the 20-year plan, which includes restoring 1.25 million acres of forest through selective thinning and prescribed burns. In 2015, it was estimated that nearly 2.7 million acres of forestland in Eastern Washington needed to be treated to increase resilience against insects, diseases and wildfires.

The funding is proposed to come from an increase of a few cents on property and insurance premiums. The DNR estimates it will cost the average household around $1 per month.

The state Legislature during the 2019 session approved $50 million to be put toward fighting wildfires and managing forest health. Two new aircraft were purchased and will be ready for service next year, as will 30 new firefighters to help maintain forest healing during the off-season.

More in News

Vote for Best of Federal Way 2020

Vote for your favorite Federal Way restaurants, businesses, community leaders and more.

Don’t forget: Vote for Best of Federal Way businesses, leaders and more

Click here to vote for your favorite Federal Way restaurants, businesses, community leaders and more.

Puppies get a warm welcome from South King Fire and Rescue

Seattle-based nonprofit Resilient Hearts Animal Sanctuary helps rescue and re-home animals from high risk situations and fosters loving relationships along the way.

Federal Way school bus driver reports man exposing genitals to students

A subject matching the description was located in the area who stated he was urinating as the bus passed by.

Former Federal Way school nurse pleads not guilty to child rape, sexual misconduct

Defense attorneys told the judge Mark David Glenn “has been receiving death threats” and people have showed up at his Auburn home.

SKFR board preserving commissioner’s seat despite lengthy absence

Fossos has been absent from board duties since he was admitted to hospital in March 2019; board plans to address issue at Jan. 28 meeting.

If passed, Senate Bill 6254 would limit the nicotine concentration of vape products, ban certain flavoring chemicals and require vape manufacturers, distributors and retailers to obtain licenses from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. File photo
Lawmakers propose sweeping regulations for vaping industry

Bill supporters cite concerns over health issues and teen use.

FTA awards $790 million grant for Federal Way, Kent light rail extension.

Construction to start in 2020, be completed in 2024

Former nurse charged with child rape worked at 20 Federal Way schools

Federal Way school district contacted parents, guardians of 573 students who may have been in contact with the nurse.

Most Read