Washington House approves aerial firefighting bill
Legislation designed to fund aerial firefighting provision in the US state of Washington has been approved by the state House
House Bill 1498 would give the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) the ability to use wildfire suppression funds to assist local and tribal fire departments with an aerial firefighting response during the initial attack phase on a wildland fire, subject to appropriation.
The bill, if passed, would also require the DNR to convene a ‘work group’ of wildfire aviation experts and contractors, fire service representatives, wildland fire management staff and other appropriate spokespeople, with the aim of developing a state certification program for aircraft and pilots used in wildfire suppression.
The bill must still pass the state senate to be made into law. However, if approved, the legislation would be brought into effect 90 days after the end of the process.
The bill is sponsored by Pomeroy Republican Representative Mary Dye, who told local news Fox 28: “If local fire districts can immediately begin using air support to attack a fire, it could be out much quicker, prevent destruction of timber and range land, protect our air quality, and save the state millions of dollars,” Dye said. “This bill would allow local air support to take place quickly and provide reimbursement to those local fire suppression entities.”
Grant County Fire District 7 Chief Chris Baker added that: “Listening to some of the people here at my district, they have always been afraid to order aircraft because of that dollar amount. So we’ve had some fires that could have definitely used [aerial firefighting support] that were very large. I think it’s about time and as long as we have training in place to ensure that everyone is responsible with that resource, it’s going to be really important — a great asset for us.”
A group of aerial firefighting operators formed a non-profit industry association based in the US capital of Washington, DC, earlier this year.