Commissioner Franz Talks Partnerships, Calls for Funding at Supertanker Event
March 24, 2021
DNR’s top official visited Moses Lake to observe a demonstration of the state-of-the-art firefighting aircraft newly stationed there
On Tuesday, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz met with officials from AeroTEC, Global Supertanker and the Washington State Department of Commerce at the Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake for a tour and flight demonstration of the state-of-the-art Global Supertanker’s wildfire aviation response capabilities.
“I’m excited to be here to celebrate what I hope, and I know the others in this town and this community hope, is a long relationship with Global Supertanker here in Moses Lake,” Commissioner Franz said. “Washington state is a state known for its forests – which are frankly dying and burning at an unbelievable pace. It is also known for its aviation excellence, and more than ever, we need that aviation excellence to help us keep the Evergreen State from turning charcoal black.”
Commissioner Franz tied the demonstration to her push at the state level for House Bill 1168, which would create long-term, dedicated funding for wildfire response, forest restoration and community resilience. The bill passed the House unanimously and received its first hearing in the state Senate directly after yesterday’s Supertanker demonstration flight.
The Global Supertanker, a 747 airplane capable of dropping 19,000 gallons of water or fire retardant on wildfires, is the world’s largest firefighting air tanker. It is currently undergoing upgrades and routine maintenance in Moses Lake, an important staging area for many of DNR’s wildland firefighting aircraft.
“During wildfire season, we strategically locate our air resources in high-risk areas, in areas which are geographically strategic to get onto fires as fast as we can. We rely on a network of aviation facilities so we can respond as quickly as possible. Moses Lake is a critical aviation facility. It is used by federal and state agencies … allowing us to respond to wildfires in Washington and across the region,” Commissioner Franz said at yesterday’s press event.
Aviation assets are a crucial part of DNR’s initial attack efforts when it comes to keeping fires small and contained early, a method that was proved very effective last fire season. However, the agency’s fleet of helicopters and contracted fixed-wing planes is small, and resources become stretched thin during fire seasons that are growing longer and more destructive every year.
“It is clear that Washington state needs to invest in expanding and modernizing our wildfire response capability,” Commissioner Franz said. “It’s time to put a proactive plan in place that funds the work and tools we need to protect our communities, to protect our state … part of that plan includes investments in infrastructure right here at the Port of Moses Lake, to house and maintain aircraft such as the Global Supertanker, to build the next generation of aircraft we need to be able to get on these fires quickly.”
Promoted by Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz and the Department of Natural Resources, House Bill 1168 would create a dedicated funding source of an expected $125 million every biennium to boost wildfire response, accelerate forest restoration, and support community resilience.
Photos and video, including the full press conference, from Franz’s visit to Grant County International Airport can be found here.
Wildfire Communications Manager