USA – Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz was in Wenatchee today to announce 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.
The effort, called Wildfire Ready Neighbors, connects residents with experts and tools to help them take proactive action – from small to large steps – to better protect their homes and surrounding property from wildfire.
Commissioner Franz traveled to Wenatchee’s Boodry neighborhood to debut the Wildfire Ready Neighbors initiative, which targets three high-risk counties: Chelan, Okanogan, and Spokane.
“For communities on the frontlines of wildfire, the unfortunate reality is that community preparedness is the last line of defense,” said Commissioner Franz. “We know that homes that prepare – that have brush trimmed back, clean roofs and gutters, and look for open areas around the foundation that can let dry leaves and debris gather under the home – are less susceptible to fire. This defensive effect is even stronger when neighbors come together to create defensible space.
“Wildfire Ready Neighbors makes it easy for residents to learn about and remedy risk factors on their property. Using this simple and free tool, families can have a preparedness expert visit their home and develop an action plan. By focusing our efforts in three high-risk counties, we hope to bring neighbors together to build community-wide resilience.”
Wildfire Ready Neighbors is a campaign that will build upon existing efforts to encourage community engagement with renters, homeowners and small forest landowners as they prepare their property for wildfire. This six-week pilot will have a staggered rollout in three high-risk counties that:
Drives people to assess risks and take action to make their properties more wildfire ready;
Raises awareness and interest in receiving free forest health consultations and home assessments;
Builds understanding of local/state resources and contractors available to assist with risk reduction activities;
Grows and deepens community relationships and partnerships around issues of wildfire and resiliency; and,
Creates a model for replicable future wildfire preparedness and resiliency programs that can be utilized by community partners in addition to their own existing programs or efforts.
Renters, homeowners and private landowners – even if they do not live on their property full time – are eligible to participate.
To join, community members simply sign up at www.wildfireready.gov. 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.
HOUSE BLL 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 and comprehensive wildfire strategy is needed. Annual acres burned in Washington have grown from an average of 189,000 in the 2000’s to an average of 488,000 over the last five years. In 2020, 812,000 acres burned.
“By remedying fire risks in homes and neighborhoods, we lessen the overall wildfire risk,” said Commissioner Franz. “With long-term funding, we could expand this effort to other counties year after year – a responsible and necessary step given the future outlook of wildfires in our state.”
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 have come together in support of House Bill 1168. The legislation includes funding for wildfire response, forest restoration and community resilience strategies, such as Wildfire Ready Neighbors. The bill received unanimous support in the House and is awaiting consideration in the Senate.
WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT WILDFIRE READY NEIGHBORS
“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 FD#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 neighbors 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