The Washington state Department of Natural Resources announced this week it is expanding its wildfire response team across the state.  DNR will add 60 positions, including hand crews, heavy equipment operators and more.  Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz says these new positions, made possible by House Bill 1168, won’t be limited to a wildfire fighting role, they’ll also be trained to do forest health work.


“We have just in eastern Washington alone 2.7 million acres of forest, federal, state, private, and tribal land that is needing significant forest health treatments to reduce these catastrophic fires.  We've made great progress already treating over 400,000 acres and we have a long way to go to achieve our 20-year goal of restoring 1.25 million acres in eastern Washington alone.”


Franz noted they are starting to see a significant forest health crisis in western Washington, meaning DNR will need to develop a forest health plan for the west side, making these additional positions even more critical.  She added when these employees aren’t fighting active wildfires, they will conduct prescribed burns, and help federal, private and tribal land owners restore their forest landscape.


Franz said these positions will help the Department in its effort to adjust to a changing climate.


"We can help make our forests more resilient to a changing climate by doing the forest health treatments needed, so that our forests can get back to fighting fires on their own.  Fire is natural in our landscape, what isn’t is the amount of fuel we have on our forest currently.  We need to go in and do the forest health treatment remove the dead, dying, diseased trees, get more space between trees, have less trees on the landscape competing for soil nutrients, water and sunlight.” 


Franz added these employees will be in addition to 85 current positions at the Department.


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