OLYMPIA — Legislation to fund aerial fire suppression assistance for small and rural fire departments passed the state House Wednesday.
“Listening to some of the people here at my district, they have always been afraid to order aircraft because of that dollar amount,” said Grant County Fire District 7 Chief Chris Baker. “So, we’ve had some fires that could have definitely used it 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.”
House Bill 1498 would authorize the Department of Natural Resources, subject to appropriation, to use wildfire suppression funds to assist local and tribal fire departments with aerial fire response capabilities during the initial attack phase on a wildland fire, according to a press release from prime sponsor Representative Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy. It also would require DNR to convene a work group composed of wildfire aviation experts, wildfire aviation contractors, fire service representatives, wildland fire management staff and others to develop a state certification program for aircraft and pilots used in wildfire suppression.
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