Commissioner Franz Kicks Off ‘Wildfire Ready Neighbors’ Program in Okanogan County to Help Protect Homes, Properties Through Community Action
April 19, 2021
Initiative connects residents with experts and resources in order to prepare communities for wildfire season
Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz was in Winthrop today to kick off a new, collaborative effort between the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), community members, home preparedness experts, regional fire districts, and other partners to better prepare those most at risk during wildfire season.
Wildfire Ready Neighbors connects residents with experts and tools to help them take proactive action – from small steps to large – to better protect their homes and surrounding property from wildfire.
Commissioner Franz traveled to the town of Winthrop to mark the arrival of Wildfire Ready Neighbors in Okanogan County.
Wildfire Ready Neighbors is piloting in three high-risk counties this year: Chelan, Okanogan and Spokane. Chelan County, the first in the pilot program, launched April 5 in Wenatchee. Spokane County work kicks off April 30.
“For communities like Winthrop that are on the frontlines of wildfire, the unfortunate reality is that community preparedness is the last line of defense,” said Commissioner Franz. “We know that homes that prepare are safer and less susceptible to fire.
“Wildfire Ready Neighbors makes it easy for residents to learn about and remedy risk factors on their property. At no cost, residents can have a preparedness expert visit their home and develop an action plan. With fires already starting to burn, the time is now to take action and protect your communities.”
Wildfire Ready Neighbors is a campaign that builds upon existing efforts, like those of Fire Adapted Methow Valley, the Okanogan Long Term Recovery Group and Firewise USA®, to encourage community engagement with renters, homeowners, and small forest landowners as they prepare their property for wildfire.
Renters, homeowners, and private landowners – even if they do not live on their property full-time – are eligible to participate.
Speakers at the Okanogan County event included Chairman Rodney Cawston, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody; Winthrop Mayor Sally Ranzau; Pateros Mayor Carlene Anders; Chief Cody Acord, Okanogan Fire District 6; and Karen Mulcahy, local resident and neighborhood captain for the program.
The new program kicked off just as wildfire season in Washington is getting underway. So far this year, there have been 182 wildfires and nearly 405 acres burned.
To join, community members simply sign up at www.wildfireready.com. At no cost to the community member, a wildfire expert will visit their property and develop a detailed action plan for wildfire preparedness. The plan include steps they can take immediately and information about local resources and contractors to help get them started.
House Bill 1168
Wildfire Ready Neighbors is part of the comprehensive strategy to better prepare communities. With out-of-control wildfire seasons becoming the norm and threatening homes on both sides of the Cascades, a fully funded, comprehensive wildfire strategy is needed. Annual acres burned in Washington have grown from an average of 189,000 in the 2000s to an average of 488,000 over the last five years. In 2020, 812,000 acres burned.
The need for the state to fund a comprehensive wildfire strategy has broad support. A bipartisan group of legislators, industry leaders, environmental and public health organizations, firefighters, fire chiefs, tribes, and other stakeholders have come together in support of House Bill 1168. The legislation includes funding for wildfire response, forest restoration, and community resilience strategies, such as Wildfire Ready Neighbors.
The bill received unanimous support in the House and Senate and is now in the House awaiting approval or rejection of changes made to the bill in the Senate. The 105-day 2021 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn April 25.
For more information, visit: wildfireready.com.
- B-roll and photos from Okanogan County Kick-off April 19 (additional b-roll content will be available tomorrow)
- B-roll and photos from Chelan County Kick-off April 5
OTHER KEY DATES
- Spokane County kicks off April 30 at 38216 N. Lakeside Dr., Elk, WA 99009
WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT WILDFIRE READY NEIGHBORS
“On behalf of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, I appreciate the efforts of Commissioner Hilary Franz to prepare our communities and citizens to be prepared when a wildland fire threatens homes and lives. This past year, many suffered immensely. We need to work together to prevent devastating fires from ever happening again.” – Chairman Rodney Cawston, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
“Over the last five to six years, Okanogan County has seen multiple large devastating wildfires. It helps the fire department out when a property owner does the work to Firewise® their home. And programs like Wildfire Ready Neighbors is just one more tool to help engage more residents to do even the smallest things, like vegetation management around the home, to protect themselves and their communities during wildfire season. I hope everybody takes advantage of this great opportunity.” – Chief Cody Acord, Okanogan County Fire District #6
“Commissioner Franz has gone above and beyond in her collaboration and proactive efforts to combat wildfires. The Wildfire Ready Neighbors program is an excellent addition to her continued focus on the basics of wildfire prevention and response. Healthy, active, and informed fire ready neighborhoods should go hand-in-hand with the basics of forest health. We can have fire ready neighborhoods and fire resistant forests at the same time. That is my goal, and I know Commissioner Franz shares that vision.” – Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda
“We are incredibly grateful for the commitment of the DNR resources to further create a fire-resilient community in Chelan County. As we all know, Chelan and Douglas counties are impacted by wildfire every summer, often severely. We are pleased you are taking this neighborhood, in Chelan, to launch this program. The recommendations to homeowners through the outreach provided by the Wildfire Ready Neighbors program will make our communities even stronger.” – Chief Brian Brett, Chelan County Fire District #1
“I want to thank Commissioner Franz and Chief Brett on the amazing work they are doing. As I was thinking about the events taking place on Boodry Street today, I thought about what we can do to be good neighbors. We can take care of our own property, making us safer, but what we do around our home also helps our neighbor’s home down the road.” Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz
“I’m grateful to Commissioner Franz and DNR for their proactive effort to prepare communities for wildfire. She continues to emphasize her ‘all lands, all hands’ approach, which includes important work at every level of government – local, state, and federal – as well as work by private property owners. Wildfire affects us all, and there is a role each of us can play in being proactive. I wish the Wildfire Ready Neighbors program much success!” – Sen. Brad Hawkins, Legislative District 12, North Central Washington (R-Wenatchee Valley)
“I’m grateful for the work Commissioner Hilary Franz has done for our state. Under her leadership, effective forest management of state-owned lands continues to produce positive results. Her collaborative approach with the Legislature has been extremely successful. I support her efforts and look forward to our continued partnership.” – Rep. Mike Steele, Legislative District 12, North Central Washington (R-Chelan)
“Commissioner Franz has exhibited a willingness and dedication to keep our communities and citizens safe during wildfire season. The ‘Wildfire Ready Neighbors’ initiative is another positive step in protecting areas susceptible to wildfires. This initiative, along with home and landowners responsibly taking preventive measures against the threat of wildfires will help make this initiative a success and strengthen our efforts to protect lives and property.” – Rep. Keith Goehner, Legislative District 12, North Central Washington (R-Dryden)
We appreciate the leadership of Commissioner Franz and the Department of Natural Resources in creating the Wildfire Ready Neighbors program, which is an innovative community-level partnership to address our wildfire concerns. This campaign to nurture local partnerships is clearly the most effective way for our communities to increase our wildfire resiliency in a comprehensive and proactive manner. We encourage Chelan County residents to take advantage of this no-cost support opportunity from DNR and local, trusted experts in the field of wildfire preparedness.” – Bob Bugert, Chairman, District 2 Commissioner; Kevin Overbay, District 1 Commissioner; and, Tiffany Gering, District 3 Commissioner; Chelan County