Some of the budget request to the Legislature is meant to improve the health of fire-prone forests.

Share story

Washington’s public lands commissioner wants lawmakers to increase the amount of money that the state spends to fight wildfires and prevent future blazes.

Hilary Franz, who oversees the Department of Natural Resources, is asking the Legislature for $55 million for wildfire response and prevention for the two-year budget that begins in 2019.

Most of that money would go into the wildfire operating budget. This funding would nearly quadruple the contributions from the state’s general fund compared with the current two-year budget period, when the Legislature approved $10.8 million.

Franz also proposes adding two helicopters, providing more training and better equipment and turning 30 temporary firefighting positions into full-time positions to the state’s largest wildland firefighting force.

Some of the budget request is meant to improve the health of fire-prone forests that have accumulated more timber because of decades of efforts to put out fires. That part of the agency request totals more than $17 million.

Franz says wildfires will continue to intensify unless the state takes action.

DNR says it responded to about 1,700 wildfires this year. Those blazes burned nearly 500 square miles in the state.