OLYMPIA, Wash. — After yet another year of catastrophic wildfires in Washington state, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz is again proposing that the state create a dedicated fund to boost available resources to prevent and fight the fires.
A similar attempt to use a surtax on home insurance premiums to raise money to fight wildfires failed in the state Legislature last year. This time, Franz is proposing to work with legislators to identify the funding source.
“The fact is, we have to be investing in our wildfire response, in forest restoration, and in community resilience,” Franz said in an interview with KING 5 Tuesday. “This legislation would finally put a dedicated revenue so that we have the funding for air resources, more firefighters, being able to have the ability to restore 1.25 million-acre forests that are already dying and leading to these catastrophic fires.”
State Rep. Kretz Springer (D-Kirkland) is expected to introduce House Bill 1168 on Tuesday.
Franz said the state has “relied on luck and hope” to battle wildfires for too long, adding that “hope does not prevent wildfires and luck does not put them out.”
She said the bill would also help communities “set themselves up to be more resilient to wildfires.”
Unlike last year, Franz said they are not coming forward with an insurance surcharge to raise money, but instead asking lawmakers to work with the state Department of Natural Resources to come up with a funding source, or sources, to “ensure we are not kicking the can down the road again at not investing in our wildfires.”
The 2020 fire season in Washington saw more than 800,000 acres burned in more than 1,600 fires. There were 298 homes destroyed, and a 1-year-old boy died in Okanogan County and his parents were badly burned when flames overran them.