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Washington Could See Difficult Wildfire Season

Jacob Frank/National Park Service

The traditional fire season is still a few months away, but Washington’s Department of Natural Resources is trying to forecast what to expect.

Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz says last year was a relatively light season, but still significant.

“We still had 1,165 fires. We still had over 130,000 burned, which is the smallest we’ve had in a long time, but we spent over $80 million fighting those fires," Franz said.

She's asking legislators to imposed a five-dollar-a-year tax on home and casualty insurance premiums, with the money routed to wildfire prevention and forest restoration projects. She and legislators have cited 2014 and 2015 as the years that got their attention that there was a wildfire problem.

Franz says her team is guessing this year could be similar to those.

“It’s possible this year is going to be a tough fire season," she said. "One, you always prepare for the worst. It’s the best thing to do when lives are on the line. Two, because last year wasn’t as significant a fire season, we have even more fuel load on the forest floor and so all it takes is one good year and the next year could be quite significant because you have more fuel load, more intensity of it that didn’t burn the year before.”

Franz believes legislators will act on her proposal during the last couple of weeks of this session.