After a devastating wildfire season that saw a baby boy die and 1,200 square miles of the state burn, Washington lawmakers are poised to fight fire with money. A lot of money.
Legislation that’s received unanimous support would see Washington spend an additional $125 million over the next two years to extinguish, prevent and live with fires. Both legislative houses have passed House Bill 1168 and Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign the bill, which would see the state spend $328 million on the efforts by 2027.
The push, led by Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Hilary Franz, would see the state hire 100 firefighters and replace antique firefighting equipment. A forest restoration workforce paid to make Washington’s state and some federal lands less combustible would be created almost from scratch, and communities in fire-prone areas — most of Eastern Washington — would be better protected from fire.
To its supporters, the funding represents a consequential step toward combating the fires that are consuming huge swaths of the state.