Lands commissioner seeks $55M for wildfires, forests

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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.

Her proposal would add two helicopters, provide more training and better equipment and make 30 seasonal firefighting positions permanent. She’s also seeking more money to improve the health of forests so they’re less likely to burn as well as help private landowners reduce fire risks.

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.