WENATCHEE — Wildfire season is coming, and the state Department of Natural Resources is readying for a long summer.
The DNR oversees the largest firefighting force in the state. On Monday, Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who oversees DNR, answered a few questions from a Wenatchee World reporter and readers on The World’s Facebook group, NCW News Community.
World: What can residents expect this year in terms of fire responses?
Franz: This year is looking to be a very challenging one for wildfires. Much of our state is seeing significant drought conditions, which creates a very dry landscape. We have already had 300 fires to date — most we have had this early in the season.
Lori N.: Thoughts on year-round ban on yard waste burning throughout the state. Possibly getting funding for chipping yard waste instead of burning?
Franz: We are working with local governments to get burn bans out early enough and wide enough. That is a great question regarding helping increase funding for chipping yard waste.
World: Your new budget won't go into full effect until next year, what will that look like?
Franz: We will be seeing our funding coming in late July. We will be working to put the funding to effect immediately from forest health work to wildfire protection resources. Some things — like building two helicopters — will take longer and we will see those in the air for next year's fire season.
World: How do you implement your wildfire strategic plan?
Franz: We developed our 10-Year Wildfire Strategic Plan in 2018 with the involvement of local, state and federal firefighting agencies. We have also created a Wildfire Advisory Council to help implement the plan. We are now working with the Legislature and the council and our partners to implement the priorities. The funding we received from the Legislature this session will help us make great progress towards implementation. Please go to dnr.wa.gov to learn more about the Ten-Year Wildfire Strategic Plan.
Also if you want to know more about our Forest Health Strategic Plan and our Wildfire Strategic Plan, go to the following link: wwrld.us/dnrplan.
World: Washington has an intense yearly fire season but we rarely see megafires on the same scale that California has experienced over the past few years. Why is that? And could Washington see fires on the same scale (hundreds of thousands of acres) one day?
Franz: Our wildfire crisis is not as bad as California's yet partly due to the fact we receive more rain more parts of the year. We are trying to make sure we don't get to where California is by making our forests and landscapes more resilient in the face of fire and building a 21st century wildfire team.