Becker: State should help out wildfire volunteers
Friday, February 10, 2017 1:08 PM
Legislation introduced by a south Pierce County state legislator is aimed at improving the state's response to wildfires, including making it easier for volunteers – such as her own brother – to help out.
Sen. Randi Becker, a Republican from the Eatonville area and the Second Legislative District, is the sponsor of Senate Bills 5198 and 5199. Both have received hearings in Olympia during the current session of the Legislature but haven't been voted on by lawmakers.
SB 5198 would require the state Department of Natural Resources to give the Legislasture informaton on the best methods, products and technologies for battling wildfires. Becker, noting that wildfires destroyed over 1 million acres statewide last year, said knowing "new methodlogies we might need" is the best way to prepare for future fires.
Her related bill, SB 5199, would make it financially feasible for more citizens to volunteer to fight wildfires. They would use state-purchased equipment and return it after their duty.
The legislation also would require volunteers to have the necessary training and qualifications to safely participate in firefighting efforts. The state would compile and maintain a list of eligible volunteers.
“My brother wanted to volunteer to fight the wildfires in 2015 and couldn’t because he couldn't afford all the necessary equipment," Becker said. "We will be much more effective at protecting our land and people from the devastation the fires bring if the state accepts the responsibility for not only tracking qualified volunteers, but for outfitting them with the necessary tools."