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.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@covingtonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.covingtonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Photo via Pexels
King County residents needed for first respiratory study using Apple watches

UW study to help find if devices can detect early warning signs of acute respiratory infections, such as COVID-19 and flu.

Photo courtesy of Johnson and Johnson (jnj.com)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine halted in Washington over side effect

Following federal guidance, Washington health care providers are temporarily pausing Johnson &… Continue reading

File Photo
High court ruling spurs effort to retool state’s drug laws

Meanwhile, the Blake decision has gotten people out jail, charges dismissed and possibly clemency for some.

The Monroe Correctional Complex on April 9, 2020. (Sound Publishing file photo)
Formerly incarcerated people regain right to vote in Washington

Rights restored immediately upon release.

Spring Chinook Salmon. Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service
Salmon update: King County wants cleaner water, more habitat

Salmon and orcas are in the spotlight once again as King County… Continue reading

Guns seized during April 7 arrests (photo credit: Dept. of Justice)
More than 20 arrested across the Puget Sound in drug distribution conspiracy

DOJ says law enforcement agencies seized over 70 guns and hundreds of thousands in cash.

T
Sheriff’s office wants help identifying Green River killer victim

Staff reports In 2003, Gary Ridgway, Washington’s notorious Green River killer, pleaded… Continue reading

A woman gathers flowers at Snofalls Lavender Farm outside Fall City on July 18, 2020. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Finding farmland in King County is a perpetual struggle

High prices and a lack of available land has pushed the price per acre sky-high.

t
Kent man charged with cutting brake lines, slashing tires in South Seattle

Tells police he committed hundreds of similar crimes in Seattle, Des Moines

Most Read