Governor Jay Inslee and state Lands Commissioner Hillary Franz toured a rural area of Spokane County Tuesday to see how local efforts are going to reduce fuels for wildfire.
Tuesday, Governor Inslee and Lands Commissioner Franz saw first-hand how efforts of the so called “Firewise” program have reduced wildfire risk on rural properties on Four Mound Prairie.
The program, led by DNR, involves thinning overgrown forests, and reducing fire danger.
They toured the property of Bonnie Cobb, the Fire District Five vice chairman. Cobb’s property had previously been damaged by the firestorm of 1991. The Governor also spoke with neighbor Jason Ross, who was convinced by the efforts on Cobb’s property to allow DNR to conduct some thinning Tuesday on his land.
”Fire control started fifteen years ago on the back property, I was telling the state patrol we have three seasons: snow, mud and fire. I just don’t want to be the guy that burns my property and my neighbor’s house down”, Ross said to the governor.
Republican state representative Joel Kretz was also on the tour.
“Burn a million acres in two years and you’ll get a lot of people interested fast. I’d like to see proscribed burns afterwards, that takes the rest of the fuel out, but the liability issues are a problem, we’ve got to figure out a way around that,” said Kretz.
Land Commissioner Franz said the more effort spent on forest thinning now will mean not only preventing fires, but saving money when it comes to fighting them. “The more we can have people on the ground especially our legislators and those that work in government trying to get them to understand the importance of forest health, and how ensuring the health of our forest will actually reduce the impact of wildfires and reduce the significant cost we keep paying after fires is one of the best things we can do for our legislators why it’s important we get funding for forest health,” Franz said.
Inslee later held a round table discussion at Fire Station 51 with area fire and tribal officials. He said he fears climate change will have an increasing impact on wildfires in Washington state.
“Fire is a threat because of increasing drought, increasing heat and beetle kill, all of which is associated with climate change. Climate change is a threat to increasing forest fires. We have had the worst two fire seasons in the last three years , back to back, and were predicted to have much more of this because of climate change,” said Inslee.
Inslee has a made state budget request for improving forest health. A portion of the $25 million request would fund the creation of 80 additional Firewise communities. There are 143 Firewise communities throughout the state.