Franz to Senate: Protect the Firefighters who Protect Us
April 8, 2019
Commissioner Franz urges lawmakers to pass the first substantial increase in wildfire preparedness this century
Washington state needs to improve its support for the firefighters who protect the state from wildfires, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz told legislators Monday afternoon.
“Our firefighters and scientists have given us the blueprint to tackle our wildfire and forest health crisis, now it’s time for us to give them what they need to get the job done,” said Commissioner Franz. “Recognizing that wildfire affects us all, we must all do our part.”
Commissioner Franz testified to the Senate Ways and Means Committee in support of Senate Bill 5996 that would establish a dedicated revenue source and raise $62.5 million annually to build a 21st century wildfire fighting force and restore the health of 1.25 million acres of forest.
Citing several instances of firefighters injured in the line of duty, Commissioner Franz urged members of the committee to approve the bill, which would be the first substantial wildfire preparedness and funding plan in more than a decade.
Commissioner Franz and Senate Democrats announced last month the bill that will provide dedicated, ongoing funding to address the state’s wildfire crisis. Funds would be used to bolster firefighter training, add firefighters and equipment, and remove diseased and dying trees from millions of acres of Washington forests.
More than 2.2 million homes in Washington are exposed to wildfire. And wildfire suppression costs in our state have averaged $153 million per year over the past five years.
The bill calls for increasing the tax on premiums for property and casualty insurance from 2 percent to 2.52 percent. This increase would cost the average household less than $2 per month.
Funding would be used by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to implement Commissioner Franz’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan, which targets 1.25 million acres of federal, state, tribal, and private forest for intensive restoration, and the Wildland Fire Protection 10-Year Strategic Plan, which focuses on fire suppression, preparedness, and prevention.
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- Video of Commissioner Franz’s testimony is available at: https://deptofnaturalresources.box.com/s/0vfriqyouuvfb9qatlv7mvfbrceglji1
- The full hearing will be available on TVW’s web site once archived at: https://www.tvw.org/watch/?clientID=9375922947&eventID=2019041137&autoStartStream=true