DNR purchases Dallesport school building for regional wildfire hub
DALLESPORT, Wash. — By purchasing a vacant building in Klickitat County, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (Washington DNR) hopes to provide a prompt, full-scale response to wildfires in the Columbia River Gorge.
The Dept. of Natural Resources is acquiring a 3.6-acre property from the Lyle School District that previously housed Dallesport Elementary School. The school building has been closed since 2016 because of steady decreases in enrollment within the school district; and will provide a central location to dispatch crews to wildfires spanning the Columbia River.
“The community of Dallesport and its former elementary school are in a geographically advantageous location, uniquely positioned to help DNR achieve our goal of strategically placing firefighters across Washington state,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said. “This transaction will have a lasting, positive impact for the residents of Dallesport and the state for generations to come.”
This $1.6 million purchase—which is funded through House Bill 1168 using money appropriated by the WA Legislature—will help the school district handle overhead costs.
“From the start of this process, the district has looked for potential buyers who would benefit the local community,” said Lyle School District Superintendent Ann Varkados. “The Lyle School District Board of Directors and I are pleased with DNR’s plans for the property and proud that it will benefit not only the mid-Columbia Gorge but the entire region.”
DNR officials plan to retrofit the school building to accommodate the 65 employees who are expected to be stationed there in Spring 2022. The Dept. of Natural Resources also plans to hire 27 new employees to join their team at this new facility.
They plan to implement a training facility, shop, office space, and equipment storage using an additional $2.5 million in HB 1168 funding.
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