Washington state lawmakers discuss $125 million wildfire bill

The winter months aren’t stopping lawmakers and elected officials from bracing for this upcoming wildfire season. House Bill 1168 is currently making its way through the Washington State Legislature.

Washington’s 2020 wildfire season was one of the most deadly and destructive on record.

“It was one of our worst seasons ever and frankly, 5 of the last 6 years have been catastrophic,” said Hilary Franz, Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands.

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About 2 million homes across Washington state are at risk of wildfire danger this year, and the numbers continue to grow.

“Two of the last three fire seasons we saw 40 percent of the fires have been west of the Cascades and we are not only seeing it west of the Cascades,” said Franz, “We are seeing it in more populated areas.”

The Department of Natural Resources requested a bill to tackle the growing wildfire threat. HB1168, which is receiving bipartisan support, would devote $125 million every two years to adding more resources to the firefight.

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“This bill would first invest in wildfire response,” said Franz. “It would have increased air resources, update our helicopters. We have 11 helicopters across the entire state 10 of them fought in the Vietnam War.”

The money would also go towards improving the health of Washington’s forests and would help communities become more fire resilient. Steps supporters say will make Washington more proactive when it comes to fighting fires.

“It’s our turn to truly change the tide and say this is not going to be our new normal,’ said Franz. “It starts with us and our legislature helping step up to fund these critical investments.”

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