The Impact – February 3, 2021
With all the issues facing the state, the head of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources wants lawmakers to remember last fire season.
“During the Labor Day firestorms we had fifty-six fires in literally twenty-four hours,” said Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands. “We tragically saw an entire town demolished just in a few hours.”
DNR is the state’s primary wildfire fighting agency. Franz is asking the legislature for a dedicated source of funding to fight wildfires and help fire prone communities prepare.
The proposal calls for $125 million for the biennium. Franz says the $62.5 million per year proposal would allow DNR to put more firefighting resources into the field during emergencies, do more fire prevention work in state forests, and help harden fire prone communities to lower their risk.
“This funding just in the next biennium would bring us two fixed wing aircraft. It would also help expand our ability of greater technology and investment in our existing ten Hueys and also enable us to be able to fly those air resources at night,” said Franz. “We know when we have air resources for initial attack we can get on those fires quickly and we can put them out.”
Earthquake Warning System
It’s been twenty years since the last serious earthquake struck Washington.
You might get a heads up before the next one. The state is planning to test a new earthquake early warning system for mobile devices later this month before a statewide rollout in May.
“The farther you are from the earthquake, the more time that you’re going to have,” said Maximilian Dixon, Geologic Hazards Supervisor, Washington Emergency Management Division.
The test will involve the three counties with the most extensive seismic monitoring in place: King; Pierce; and Thurston. It’s set for February 25th just shy of the twentieth anniversary of the 6.8 magnitude Nisqually earthquake on February 28th, 2001.
The fires that sometimes follow earthquakes are one problem where having even a few seconds of warning can make a difference. The early warning system can be integrated into automated valve control systems to shut off gas or water before the shaking breaks the lines. “Slowing down trains, opening up fire station doors, you know… stopping surgeries. Obviously there’s a ton of different applications that we could use this for,” said Dixon.
More information about the states Wireless Emergency Alert system test is available here: https://mil.wa.gov/alerts.