Plan Creates Wildfire Prevention and Suppression Account
Information submitted by Hilary Franz, DNR Newsletter – Solving Washington’s Wildfire Crisis
Catastrophic wildfire seasons have become a reality for our entire state, but it doesn’t have to be a reality we accept. With bold, forward-thinking investments, we can protect our communities from fire and smoke.
Last season, our firefighters responded to a record 1,850 wildfires. At times, Washington’s air quality was the worst in the world and we spent the summer choking on smoke. Now, we’re early in the year and wildfire season is already ramping up. There were dozens of unseasonal wildfires just last month – 54 to be exact, 53 of which were west of the Cascades.
But there’s a new plan in the state legislature to tackle this wildfire crisis: Senate Bill 5996. The plan creates the Wildfire Prevention and Suppression Account, which dedicates $62.5 million annually for effective, long-term wildfire suppression and prevention.
The bill would:
- Provide new helicopters, better equipment, more wildland firefighters, and improved training for our firefighters; and
- Fund DNR’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan, which will reduce wildfires by restoring the health of 1.25 million acres of diseased and dying forests across Central and Eastern Washington. And when we restore forest health, we also make our forests more resistant to climate change, protect sources of clean water, and improve salmon habitat.
You can learn more about Senate Bill 5996 and how it will help Washington in this article from the Inlander.
Money for this critical wildfire funding plan will come from an increase in the tax on premiums for property and casualty insurance from 2 percent to 2.52 percent. This 0.52 percent increase, on average, costs less than $2 per month per household.
This is not a request we make lightly, but we are already paying. Wildfire suppression has cost our state an average of $153 million per year over the past five years. With dedicated funding to fight fires and restore the health of our forests, we can finally solve our wildfire crisis.
This is our opportunity to take action and build a better future for Washington.