Bill To Get Head Start On Wildfires

A House committee in Olympia has unanimously approved a bill that would help local fire agencies get a head start with aerial support when a wild land fire breaks out.

State Representative Mary Dye reminded lawmakers of the 2015 fire season that burned across 16-hundred square miles of Washington, destroying nearly 300 homes, businesses and outbuildings.

The Pomeroy Republican says quick response and the right resources could help prevent such catastrophic damage. She’s sponsored a bill that would create a pre-mobilization program to help local agencies pay for aerial support during the initial attack of a fire.  “The idea of having a few buckets of water or retardant from a helicopter in the initial attack of a small wild land fire while the pumpers and the brush trucks arrive intuitively suggests that fewer fires will grow to need a state mobilization.”

In the summer of 2015, four U.S. Forest Service firefighters raced down a winding dirt road in a fire engine near Winthrop, trying to escape a wall of flames. Blinded by smoke, the engine went off the road. The sole survivor, Daniel Lyon Junior, got out and was immediately engulfed in flames, suffering third degree burns over 65 percent of his body.  Lyon submitted his testimony to a House committee via video on behalf of  Rep. Dye’s bill
Lyon’s fallen partners were Forest Service firefighters Andrew Zajac, 26, of Winthrop, Rick Wheeler, 31, of Wenatchee, and Tom Zbyszewski, 20, of Carlton.
Dye’s bill would allow local fire agencies to request reimbursement under the assistance program after first deployment of aircraft during a wildfire. The House Public Safety Committee gave unanimous approval Thursday and now the measure awaits being sent for a vote on the House floor.

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