Initiative connects residents with experts and resources in order to prepare communities for wildfire season
ELK, Wash. – Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz was in Elk today to kick off a new, collaborative effort between the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), community members, home preparedness experts, regional fire districts, and other partners to better prepare those most at risk during wildfire season.
Wildfire Ready Neighbors connects residents with experts and tools to help them take proactive action – from small steps to large – to better protect their homes and surrounding property from wildfire.
Commissioner Franz traveled to the town of Elk, north of Spokane, to mark the arrival of Wildfire Ready Neighbors in Spokane County.
Wildfire Ready Neighbors is focused on three high-risk counties this year: Chelan, Okanogan and Spokane. Chelan County launched April 5 in Wenatchee and Okanogan County launched April 19 in Winthrop.
“This program puts boots on-the-ground in wildfire-prone counties to help residents prepare and defend their communities,” said Commissioner Franz. “We know that homes that prepare are safer and less susceptible to fire.
“Wildfire Ready Neighbors makes it easy for residents to learn about and remedy risk factors on their property. At no cost, a preparedness expert will visit your home and develop an action plan. With fires already starting to burn, the time is now to take action and protect our communities.”
Wildfire Ready Neighbors is a campaign that builds upon existing efforts, like Firewise USA® and others, to encourage community engagement with renters, homeowners, and small forest landowners as they prepare their property for wildfire.
Renters, homeowners, and landowners – even if they do not live on their property full-time – are eligible to participate.
The new program kicked off just as wildfire season in Washington is getting underway. So far this year, there have been 272 fires with nearly 650 acres burned. To join, community members simply sign up at www.wildfireready.com. At no cost to the community member, a wildfire expert will visit their property and develop a detailed action plan for wildfire preparedness. The plan include steps they can take immediately and information about local resources and contractors to help get them started.
For more information, visit: wildfireready.com.
House Bill 1168
Wildfire Ready Neighbors is part of the comprehensive strategy to better prepare communities. With out-of-control wildfire seasons becoming the norm and threatening homes on both sides of the Cascades, a fully funded, comprehensive wildfire strategy is needed. Annual acres burned in Washington have grown from an average of 189,000 in the 2000s to an average of 488,000 over the last five years. In 2020, 812,000 acres burned.
The need for the state to fund a comprehensive wildfire strategy has broad support. A bipartisan group of legislators, industry leaders, environmental and public health organizations, firefighters, fire chiefs, tribes, and other stakeholders came together in support of House Bill 1168. The legislation includes $125 million in funding every two years for wildfire response, forest restoration, and community resilience strategies, such as Wildfire Ready Neighbors.
The bill received unanimous support in the House and Senate and was sent to the governor for signature. The 2021 legislative session adjourned April 25.
WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT WILDFIRE READY NEIGHBORS
“We’ve got some great work started, but I’m looking forward to continuing those efforts and further developing the partnerships, like Wildfire Ready Neighbors, we’ve already started. We’ve done some great work identifying hazard fuel areas and with House Bill 1168 and this program we’re hopeful we’ll be able to build on our efforts.” – Chief Bill Neckels, Spokane Fire District 4
“We are elated to see Wildfire Ready Neighbors because it’s going to do so much to put more fuel behind the program we already have in place and allow us to get out on that micro level – to stop talking about the problem in Olympia and other venues and get out to our taxpayers and provide that value-added service to solve our problem and mitigate hazardous fuels on the ground.” – Chief Jack Cates, Spokane Fire District 9
“Everyone has seen the devastation of wildfires and what they have done to our state and it keeps getting worse. The work that Commissioner Franz has done it show that there’s hope that we’re going to turn the corner and we’re putting our best foot forward and going to focus on proven techniques and proven and proven processes that are going to all we can to fix this wildfire problem. We’re going to be ready; we’re going to be prepared, but each of us are going to have to play our role to ensure that 2021 is the year that we turn that corner and see successes in reducing wildfires and their devastation.” – Spokane County Commissioner Josh Kerns, District 1
“We are a well-established community working toward being Firewise USA®. I want to thank all the agencies and Commissioner Franz for taking the ‘bull by the horns’ and helping us make our communities cleaner and safer.” – Reflection Lake Wildfire Ready Neighbors Community Captain Charles Bennett
“On behalf of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, I appreciate the efforts of Commissioner Hilary Franz to prepare our communities and citizens to be prepared when a wildland fire threatens homes and lives. This past year, many suffered immensely. We need to work together to prevent devastating fires from ever happening again.” – Chairman Rodney Cawston, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
“Over the last five to six years, Okanogan County has seen multiple large devastating wildfires. It helps the fire department out when a property owner does the work to Firewise® their home. And programs like Wildfire Ready Neighbors is just one more tool to help engage more residents to do even the smallest things, like vegetation management around the home, to protect themselves and their communities during wildfire season. I hope everybody takes advantage of this great opportunity.” – Chief Cody Acord, Okanogan County Fire District #6
“Commissioner Franz has gone above and beyond in her collaboration and proactive efforts to combat wildfires. The Wildfire Ready Neighbors program is an excellent addition to her continued focus on the basics of wildfire prevention and response. Healthy, active, and informed fire ready neighborhoods should go hand-in-hand with the basics of forest health. We can have fire ready neighborhoods and fire resistant forests at the same time. That is my goal, and I know Commissioner Franz shares that vision.” – Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda
“We are incredibly grateful for the commitment of the DNR resources to further create a fire-resilient community in Chelan County. As we all know, Chelan and Douglas counties are impacted by wildfire every summer, often severely. We are pleased you are taking this neighborhood, in Chelan, to launch this program. The recommendations to homeowners through the outreach provided by the Wildfire Ready Neighbors program will make our communities even stronger.” – Fire Chief Brian Brett, Chelan County Fire District #1
“I want to thank Commissioner Franz and Chief Brett on the amazing work they are doing. As I was thinking about the events taking place on Boodry Street today, I thought about what we can do to be good neighbors. We can take care of our own property, making us safer, but what we do around our home also helps our neighbor’s home down the road.” Wenatchee Mayor Frank Kuntz
“I’m grateful to Commissioner Franz and DNR for their proactive effort to prepare communities for wildfire. She continues to emphasize her ‘all lands, all hands’ approach, which includes important work at every level of government – local, state, and federal – as well as work by private property owners. Wildfire affects us all, and there is a role each of us can play in being proactive. I wish the Wildfire Ready Neighbors program much success!” – Sen. Brad Hawkins, Legislative District 12, North Central Washington (R-Wenatchee Valley)
“I’m grateful for the work Commissioner Hilary Franz has done for our state. Under her leadership, effective forest management of state-owned lands continues to produce positive results. Her collaborative approach with the Legislature has been extremely successful. I support her efforts and look forward to our continued partnership.” – Rep. Mike Steele, Legislative District 12, North Central Washington (R-Chelan)
“Commissioner Franz has exhibited a willingness and dedication to keep our communities and citizens safe during wildfire season. The ‘Wildfire Ready Neighbors’ initiative is another positive step in protecting areas susceptible to wildfires. This initiative, along with home and landowners responsibly taking preventive measures against the threat of wildfires will help make this initiative a success and strengthen our efforts to protect lives and property.” – Rep. Keith Goehner, Legislative District 12, North Central Washington (R-Dryden)
“We appreciate the leadership of Commissioner Franz and the Department of Natural Resources in creating the Wildfire Ready Neighbors program, which is an innovative community-level partnership to address our wildfire concerns. This campaign to nurture local partnerships is clearly the most effective way for our communities to increase our wildfire resiliency in a comprehensive and proactive manner. We encourage Chelan County residents to take advantage of this no-cost support opportunity from DNR and local, trusted experts in the field of wildfire preparedness.” – Bob Bugert, Chairman, District 2 Commissioner; Kevin Overbay, District 1 Commissioner; and, Tiffany Gering, District 3 Commissioner; Chelan County