Fighting wildfires in Washington costs an average of $153 million a year. Last year, Public Lands Commissioner Hillary Franz offered a plan to cope with some of those costs.
How did the proposal fare? Under the state budget just finalized last week, the Department of Natural Resources will receive $48.6 million in combined operating and capital funds. That’s about $6.5 million less than Franz had asked for in DNR’s proposal for wildfire and forest health — but it will make full-time jobs out of 30 seasonal engine leader positions; buy and refurbish two helicopters; and increase fire prevention outreach to the public, among other initiatives.
In late March, Franz had also proposed a forest health funding bill, raising $62.5 million a year for wildfire prevention and suppression, funded by a 0.52 percent increase on taxes for property and casualty insurance premiums. Democrats in the Senate signed on, and the bill passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.