Serving Franklin County, WA

Bill providing aerial firefighting funds passes

Measure awaits signature of Gov. Inslee

OLYMPIA – Rep. Mary Dye’s bill to reimburse local fire districts for costs incurred during a wildfire is awaiting the governor’s signature to become law.

Dye, R-Pomeroy, said the bill is necessary to help local fire districts cover the costs of helitack, Fire Boss and other aircraft attacking wildfires.

House Bill 1498, the so-called “aviation assurance funding” measure, passed the Senate unanimously April 10. The House concurred Friday, April 14.

Dye originally introduced the bill in 2016 at the urging of Asotin County Fire District 1 Chief Noel Hardin.

“Minutes count when a fire breaks out. If local fire districts can immediately begin using air support to attack a fire, it could be extinguished much quicker, prevent the destruction of timber and range land, protect our air quality, and save the state millions of dollars,” said Dye, ranking Republican on the House Environment and Energy Committee.

“Waiting for the State Fire Marshall to authorize aerial suppression can take hours - precious time in which a little fire can grow into a massive inferno, destroying everything in its path. But calling in local aviation suppression when the fire is small can quickly break the budgets of local fire districts.

“The cost of contracted helicopters is as much as $2,500 per hour. This legislation would allow the state to reimburse our local fire departments, giving them the ability to call out local aerial suppression on initial attack without breaking the bank.”

Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, helped Dye negotiate support from state Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, who heads the state Department of Natural Resources.

Dye represents the 9th Legislative District, which includes eastern Adams, southern Spokane, Whitman and Lincoln counties, among others.

 

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