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photo: mynorthwest.com

OLYMPIA - Co-sponsored by State Rep. Tom Dent of Moses Lake, House Bill 2228 would allow earlier use of state firefighting resources. Washington’s state mobilization plan allows the use of state resources to suppress wildfires when a blaze goes beyond the capacities of local fire services. The proposed bill reportedly had support at a public hearing in the House Housing, Community Development and Veterans Committee. 

“We’re very proud of the mobilization program we have here in the state of Washington,” McLane Black Lake Fire Department Fire Chief Steve North told the committee. “But we believe there’s a major weakness in the plan. By having to wait until an incident has grown to a sufficient size and scope to exceed all local mutual aid resources, it’s often too late to prevent a large, costly fire that puts our communities, our citizens and our firefighters at risk in the summertime.”

Recently, Washington state has addressed increasingly severe wildfire seasons by improving initial fire response, an endeavor that was inspired by the 2014 wildfire season. 2014’s wildfire season spawned the Carlton Complex fire in Okanogan County, the state’s largest wildfire in its history. 

Lawmakers believe the fire might have been manageable if state mobilization had summoned when the first flames were spotted by smokejumpers.  

“That’s the kind of scenario we want to avoid. Had we had equipment within a few hours of that location, we might have been able to hold on to that,” said State. Rep. Larry Springer. 

Washington State Association of Counties Policy Director Juliana Roe also supports the bill saying, “local governments are on the front lines of emergencies in their jurisdictions. There needs to be sufficient resources to prevent an emergency from turning into a catastrophe. Having the ability to request additional resources….could potentially save millions of dollars in manpower, property loss…that would be otherwise a detrimental impact to local communities.”

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