Commissioner Franz proposes $55M to increase state fire safety

WASHINGTON - Washington state had the second worst fire season on record with over 1,800 fires this past year.

With a higher number of fires, yet with the same amount of resources given in past years, the state was spread thin.

A $55 million budget proposal could help solve the problem.

Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz, is presenting to legislature next week her proposal aimed at improving the state's wildfire response and restoring healthy forests.

"We didn't have the resource and capacity, we believe what we are seeing is likely to continue, and we really need to make sure we are setting up Washington state to be successful to fight those fires," Franz said.

More than 40 percent of fires in the state were in areas where wildfire has never been a concern.

"We have under invested in Washington state's forests and under invested in Washington state's firefighter capacity this 55 million dollar request will say it's time we step forward and make sure we are setting up Washington state to be more resilient and to be more dependent on themselves," Franz said.

Improving forest health is a main topic on the agenda, but Franz said even more than half of the proposal is aimed at adding more fire resources such as air assets, fire training, and even increasing the number of firefighters by double.

"If we invest up front in forest health and we invest upfront with resources and firefighting capacity we can actually save the state, our communities the save the cost in the back-end," Franz said.

Franz tells NBC Right Now that unless the state invests more into wildfire preparedness and forest health restoration with the hotter, dry temperatures fast approaching, the wildfires will only get worse.

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