Franz Works To Engage WA Legislators On Wildfire Issues

Dec 27, 2020
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Covid-related aid and police reform will be two of the major issues before the Washington legislature when it convenes next month.

But newly-reelected Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz hopes legislators will also consider dedicating more funding for wildfire and forest health projects.

Two Groups Help Victims Of Okanogan Wildfires

Oct 27, 2020
Janene Hampton

The early showing of winter may have helped to bring an end to a late-developing fire season in eastern and central Washington. But people who lost their homes in some of the Labor Day weekend fires are still dealing with their effects.

One Methow Valley institution and a Native non-profit organization are among those reaching out to people who need help.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Washington’s Department of Natural Resources on Monday released an updated version of its statewide forest action plan. The plan is designed to help reduce the risk of wildfire over time and help the state adjust its forest management strategies to a changing climate.

WA Lands Commissioner Reviews Unusual Fire Season

Oct 19, 2020
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The wildfire season in Washington is winding down. Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz says the Department of Natural Resources is sending some of its seasonal firefighters home for the winter.

She stopped in Spokane on Monday to look back on what has been an unusual season.

Spokane County Fire District 9

A Spokane County fire district has announced a multi-year plan to reduce the wildfire threats within its boundaries. The plan has the endorsement of state Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz.

Spokane County Fire District 9 operates nine fire stations in north Spokane County. Many of them are in heavily forested areas.

Courtesy of Idaho Department of Lands

New fire statistics from the Washington Department of Natural Resources show lightning has played a much smaller role in causing fires this year than in the past.


The agency has just released its latest data that covers the January through August period for northeast Washington counties.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

National Weather Service forecasts over the weekend indicated we might see winds early in the week that would move some of the thick wildfire smoke out of the region.


But the newest computer modeling indicates the weak low pressure coming in late Monday and early Tuesday won't have much of an impact on the smoke.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

A top Washington state lands official says wildland fire crews are doing a good job fighting fires under the constraints of a Covid-related physical distancing.

“There’s nothing that has said that Covid or mitigations around Covid have done that much to severely limit resources available," said Washington state forester George Geissler.

Washington State Department of Transportation

UPDATE: Monday, 11:45 am

Spokane County's air quality has improved slightly. The county's clean air agency measures 418 parts per million on a 1-500 scale of particulates, still hazardous, but better than the 36-48 hours.  Nearly all of the smoke monitoring stations are registering very unhealthy or hazardous levels.

While it looked like we might see some improvement by today, the current forecasts call for haze to stick around until Friday. Then, we can expect cloudy skies a chance of rain through the weekend.

Washington State Department of Transportation

Washington’s air is smoky and getting worse. The Department of Ecology today [Thursday] issued a statewide air quality advisory.

Andrew Wineke from Ecology says the culprit is smoke from wildfires in Washington and Oregon that has been sitting offshore.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Washington state legislators will have a difficult task in writing a balanced budget in 2021. A Covid-battered economy has slowed, while the state has spent a lot more money to respond to the virus.

But the state’s lands commissioner hopes this week’s surge in wildfires will convince to spend more money for fire prevention and suppression.

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

On Thursday, Governor Jay Inslee will tour the small eastern Washington farming town of Malden, which was overrun by wildfire on Monday.

He’ll see piles of rubble where buildings sat last week and smell the pungent odor of smoke.

He may also meet one of the men who helped to evacuate the town.

U.S. Forest Service

[This story will be updated throughout the day.]

The high winds from Monday have gone, but wildfires continue to burn in eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz tweeted this morning there are nine major fires burning in the Evergreen State. She says 58 fires have been ignited in the last 24 hours.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Washington's Department of Transportation has reopened several highways that have been closed much of the day due to blowing dust from fields and wildfire smoke.

Interstate 90 from Ritzville to the Grant County line and U.S. 395 from Ritzville's junction with I-90 have now reopened after being closed for several hours. Also in the area, State Routes 21 and 261 are now open to traffic.

Is Wildfire Smoke Coming? Be Ready, Just In Case

Aug 19, 2020
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The air quality around the Northwest is gradually worsening with the increasing number of wildfires burning this week.

Health and air quality officials are urging people to be prepared in case the smoke becomes more prominent.

Courtesy of Julie Postma

This time of year, asthmatics struggle when smoke from wildfires lingers in the air. This summer, the air has been much clearer.

But, when smoke does eventually waft into the region, a Washington State University researcher has a new tool for asthmatics to share their symptoms. She and her partners have been perfecting a new app and they’re looking for young adult asthmatics to test it.

Wildfire Burns 25 Acres On Spokane's West Plains

Aug 14, 2020
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

A grass fire near Spokane International Airport today [Friday] has burned about 25 acres, sending smoke into the city.

Guy Gifford from the Washington Department of Natural Resources says the fire charred an area bounded by Grove Road and Sunset Highway.


The wildfire season is relatively quiet right in the Inland Northwest. Crews over the weekend announced they had fully contained three fires in eastern. A handful of fires started last week when conditions were optimum for new fire starts, but crews were able to get on them quickly.

Still, things could erupt at any time and, as a result, Avista says it has recently made some seasonal changes to reduce the chance its power system causes fires.

Wildfire Crews Adjust Training Because Of Covid

Jun 10, 2020
Washington Department of Natural Resources

Covid has had at least some effect on wildfire training in eastern Washington this spring.

In Fire District 9 in north Spokane County, firefighters are getting their wildfire refresher courses via video, rather than the usual in person classes. But there’s only so much you can do by watching a screen, says Chief Jack Cates.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

A U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee on Tuesday asked federal lands officials about the nation’s readiness for wildfire season.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) warned that, with the calendar moving to mid-June, there isn’t much time left to prepare.

“The National Interagency Fire Center issued the wildland potential outlook for the fire season and, for the state of Washington and, I would say, the whole Pacific Northwest, we are in the bullseye of what is likely to be a very challenging fire season,” Cantwell said.

Courtesy of Idaho Department of Lands

Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz says the agency is planning for a different kind of wildfire season.

“There is no manual that is written on how do you keep your firefighters safe within the context of this pandemic. They fight fires. They’re eating, sleeping, living and fighting those fires in close quarters," Franz said.

WA Wildfire Season Already Active; Covid Complicates It

May 14, 2020
Washington Department of Natural Resources

Washington state land managers say the wildfire season is already far more active than in normal years.

The Department of Natural Resources reports 263 fires, as of Tuesday. That’s about two-and-a-half times the usual rate for this time of year.

Second Big Health Issue Looming: Wildfires

May 8, 2020
Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Spokane County Health Officer Bob Lutz has plenty to worry about with managing the local public health response to the coronavirus. But now he has another issue on his radar screen: wildfires.

Lutz is regularly on the phone with Washington Department of Health officials about Covid-related issues. But Thursday afternoon, he was also preparing to talk with them about the upcoming wildfire season.

City Of Spokane Releases Climate Survey Results

May 7, 2020
City of Spokane

Health and economic issues are top of mind for most people right now. But results of a survey released this week by the city of Spokane show the environment is still important to people.


More than 1,400 residents answered questions in a recent online poll about climate change.

Washington Could See Difficult Wildfire Season

Feb 24, 2020
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.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Two northeast Washington legislators say they support the concept of creating a fund to pay for wildfire prevention and forest restoration on state lands. It’s an idea proposed by Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz.

Franz proposes to add a surcharge on property and casualty insurance premiums — about a dollar a month, she estimates — and direct the money to a wildfire prevention and forest restoration fund.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Today on Inland Journal, two segments about the health of forests in our region.

Later, we’ll hear part of a session from a Western Governors Association workshop conducted Tuesday in Post Falls. It focused on improving the resilience of forests in the region.

But first, this week, Washington state Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz released a plan to create a dedicated fund to pay for forest health and wildfire prevention. She proposes a surcharge on property and casualty insurance premiums. Her office estimates the increased cost for the average household will be a little more than a dollar a month and raise about $63 million a year.

Department of Natural Resources

All the rain we expected this week is in direct contrast to last year, when Washington was dry and wildfires made the air the most hazardous in the nation because of the smoke.

Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz says this year’s fire season has turned out much different than she anticipated back in the spring, when a record 54 fires had been reported by the second week of March.

Washington's Governor Signs Three Dozen New Laws

Apr 19, 2019

It’s bill signing season for Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who signed several pieces of legislation into law on Wednesday. Friday he affixed his signature to another three dozen bills.

One new law requires the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to adopt rules that requires hunters to wear either florescent orange or, in what’s new here, florescent pink. The sponsor, Republican Sen. Lynda Wilson, wore a bright pink vest to the signing ceremony.

Washington Department of Natural Resources

Washington state Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz is commenting on President Trump’s tweet Wednesday that he may cut off FEMA funding to California for wildfires if the state doesn’t “get its act together.”