‘Cascading Impacts of Wildfire’ Bill Introduced to Address Smoke and Wildfire Risk Statewide
News Date: 
January 31, 2023

Bipartisan legislation will expand DNR’s popular Wildfire Ready Neighbors program to Western Washington, boost community resilience initiatives, and implement state-of-the-art smoke mitigation measures.


As climate change fuels larger and more frequent wildfires statewide, smoky summers are becoming less the exception and more the rule in Washington state. 
Motivated by the increase in wildfires on the westside of the state and by the debilitating smoke that hung over large parts of Washington due to 2022’s Bolt Creek Fire near Skykomish – a fire that caused Washington state to have the worst air quality in the world – Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz has proposed “Cascading Impacts of Wildfire” legislation (House Bill 1578/Senate Bill 5611). This bill details the agency’s plan to prepare communities for wildfire smoke risks and impacts, expand community resilience efforts statewide, and manage post-wildfire risks including landslides and debris flows.
The bill, which has bipartisan support, will focus particularly on communities that face unique risks during and after wildfire events.
“Last year’s Bolt Creek and Goat Rocks fires were a stark reminder that no part of our state is immune from wildfire risk or the devastating health impacts of wildfire smoke,” said Commissioner Franz, who leads the Department of Natural Resources.
“For days, smoke choked our lungs, forced our kids inside, and threatened the health of at-risk populations. While we continue to make progress in reducing the threat of wildfire, we must also prioritize how we mitigate and prepare for the impacts of wildfire and smoke. We must take steps to reduce the impacts of wildfire to our homes and communities, on both sides of the state,” said Commissioner Franz. 
House Bill 1578/Senate Bill 5611 asks for $12.8 million over the next biennium to achieve these goals. It was sponsored in the state House of Representatives by Reps. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland) and Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda) and in the state Senate by Senator Keith Wagoner (R-Sedro-Woolley) and Senator Sharon Shewmake (D-Bellingham).
With funding included in House Bill 1578/Senate Bill 5611, DNR will expand its already popular Wildfire Ready Neighbors program from eastern to western Washington. Three pilot programs in development in Pierce, Thurston and Mason counties would become permanent, along with five additional high-risk counties in western Washington. Since DNR’s Wildfire Ready Neighbors program’s launch in 2021, more than 4,000 eastern Washington residents have signed up to get a personalized Wildfire Ready Plan and committed to take more than 20,000 actions to better prepare their homes and communities for wildfire.
The bill also takes steps towards reducing health impacts from wildfires and smoke through a multipronged approach. It establishes a statewide smoke monitoring and predictive services team. It also enables DNR to deploy mobile air quality monitoring equipment, conduct simulation modeling, and provide real-time data and smoke exposure forecasts to support community-level public health efforts. In addition, the bill will provide smoke readiness resource grants to local communities with high smoke risk for use in schools, community centers, and child-care and health care facilities. DNR also will incorporate community- and individual-level smoke readiness resources into its Wildfire Ready Neighbors program, which will include connections to home weatherization services and community clean air centers.
Finally, recognizing that climate change will continue to shift regional fire vulnerabilities, HB 1578/Senate Bill 5611 will allow DNR to provide updated modeling to assess high-fire risk regions and post-fire landslide and debris flow risks, providing detailed data that will give property-owners, the public, tribes, and local governments the ability to develop responsive strategies to address their specific wildfire risk profile.
Communications Manager