Washington Public Lands Commissioner Hillary Franz is hopeful state lawmakers will approve a new funding source that would raise 62.5 million dollars per year for fund wildfire suppression.
In recent years, wildfires have increased in numbers and intensity in Washington State.
Last year there were a total of 1850 wildfires, the most on record, and so far in the last month, 50 wildfires were reported. It would be difficult to forget the smoke filled summers our state has experienced the last couple of years.
Now, DNR chief Hillary Franz and Senate Democrats are presenting a bill to help reduce the wildfire threat, through suppression and prevention.
Franz explains that in the past, no money has been provided in advance of fire season to fight wildfires, so it makes sense to have a budget to reduce the risk and be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at us this year.
“So we every year are doing everything we can to fight the wildfires, but we have gotten zero dollars for wildfire suppression for the last four years. As a result were making due trying to fight these fires with limited air capacity and limited firefighters. In the end were having to bring them in on contracts from other states.It makes it very difficult to keep those fires small when we don’t have the resources in the air , on the ground to keep those fires contained,” Franz said
It’s estimated this bill could raise 62.5 million for fire suppression and prevention. In the past, DNR received 154 million dollars annually after the fire season to pay for firefighting efforts.
The new funding mechanism would come from increasing the tax on insurance premiums for property and casualty insurance from 2 percent to 2.52 percent. Franz says the cost would be less than 2 dollars per month for the average household.