Rep. Mary Dye’s Local Wildland Fire Suppression Account legislation receives public hearing

Last year was the worst wildfire season on record in Washington state. Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, has made wildfire suppression one of her top priorities.

The 9th District lawmaker has introduced bipartisan legislation that is gaining traction in the Legislature. House Bill 2596, which received a public hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, would create a new account to be used to fund immediate, local fire suppression responses by local suppression entities.

The new Local Wildland Fire Suppression Account would be managed by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and funded through an appropriation through the Legislature. Most of the monies in the account would be used to fund immediate, local fire suppression responses.

“A lot of wildfires can be contained early but aren't because of a lack of access or certainty of available resources. Unfortunately, suppression assets are a larger tool than many small, rural districts have in their toolboxes,” said Dye. “My bill would create a dedicated fund, so that in the event of an emergency that is larger than the local resources available, the decision has already been set to deploy larger assets in a timely manner.”

Under Dye's bill, a local suppression entity could submit a request for an expenditure from the Local Wildland Fire Suppression Account if a wildfire starts within its jurisdiction. The entity would be expected to provide information on its proposed suppression actions and anticipated costs. When a request for funds is made, the state Department of Natural Resources would have 30 minutes to either release the amount of money requested, provide a guaranteed level of reimbursement to the entity, or release assets under control of the state agency to facilitate an immediate response.

During public testimony, a local resident of Steven's County said, “I am encouraged that my neighbors, mostly volunteer fire professionals, might be empowered to fight fires before they become catastrophic by the fund this bill creates.” She added, “Like it or not, in the quiet between fires, the state and local entities both have to acknowledge that resources are limited especially in the small, rural districts. Fire fighters deserve to know they can fight a fire and not wonder if they will financially survive the fire and thereby delay intervention. Citizens are asking for the assurance that unnecessary delays in protecting their property be avoided. It seems that this bill provides that assurance in advance and actual mobilization at the moment of risk rather than when the incident shifts to a crisis.”

It is Dye's hope that House Bill 2596 will move to an executive session where it can be voted on in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. That decision will be made by the committee chair, who is a co-sponsor on the bill.

###

Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov