DNR to sign agreements with local agreements with contractors, landowners
“This bill is a direct result of some hard lessons that were learned when folks in Central and Eastern Washington were in the thick of it. It’s a positive step in the right direction and I’m grateful legislators on both sides of the aisle can agree wildfire suppression and forest health are critical issues that needed to be addressed this year.”
Rep. Joel Kretz, 7th District
OLYMPIA – Under legislation sponsored by Rep. Joel Kretz and signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee, much of the groundwork for the state’s next wildfire suppression response will be laid months in advance as the state seeks to enter into preemptive agreements with local contractors.
“We’re continuing to respond to the devastation and experiences of the record wildfires our region has seen over the last few years,” said Kretz, R- Wauconda. “This bill is a direct result of some hard lessons that were learned when folks in Central and Eastern Washington were in the thick of it. It’s a positive step in the right direction and I’m grateful legislators on both sides of the aisle can agree wildfire suppression and forest health are critical issues that needed to be addressed this year.”
House Bill 1489 specifically requires the state Department of Natural Resources to enter into preemptive wildfire suppression agreements with local contractors as well as landowners. The department must take into consideration the availability, location and condition of equipment as well as the training and safety certifications of personnel.
A master list of contractors and equipment will be made available to emergency dispatchers and local fire districts, although the law does not prohibit engaging with contractors not on the list if needed.
In addition, participating contractors will work under the supervision of recognized wildfire personnel and at a pre-determined operating rate identified beforehand.
Kretz gave credit to the Washington Forest Protection Association for its efforts to help educate lawmakers on the need to engage local fire suppression assets and for assistance in crafting the bill.
“The Washington Forest Protection Association was a real asset for us to get this across the goal line this session,” said Kretz. “There’s more to be done but I’m extremely grateful for their assistance and look forward to working with them on other wildfire and forest health issues.”
“We really need to keep small fires small,” said WFPA executive director Mark Doumit. “And the way to do that is to engage with local private contractors already in the county. Larger fire suppression efforts have their time and place, but we see a need for a local quick reaction fire suppression force that knows the terrain and is able to step up with short notice. This new law will help get us there.”
Kretz’s bill was signed into law during the closing days of the 2017 regular session.
“We’ve done a lot over the last few years to help avoid another awful wildfire stretch like we saw in 2014 and 2015,” said Kretz. “But we also have a lot more to do.”