Helping landowners protect their property from wildfire

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For six years, a property owner in Kittitas County tried to reduce the wildfire risk on his property. In Washington state, small forest landowners have been required to go through the Farm Labor Contractor Act to reduce fire fuels on their property.

Unfortunately, the system was not user-friendly and there was a lot of bureaucracy surrounding the rules under the program. The forest-fuel cleanup business had been pushed underground.]

You can imagine his concern as he wanted to abide by the law, but every fire season he was watching property, homes and dreams go up in flames around him as he desperately wanted to protect his property from the devastating wildfires.

Seeking a solution, the citizen met with Rep. Tom Dent. To address the problem, the representative drafted legislation – House Bill 1924.

“Many citizens have become proactive in protecting their homes and property wildfires. We need our state agencies to be working with those we represent and have programs in place that encourage, not deter, people from using them, especially at a time when we are seeing great devastation in our state and across the nation in recent years,” said Dent. “The legislation eliminates some of the bureaucracy and assists small forest landowners in reducing wildfire risk on their property.”

Some landowners in Kittitas County had been trying to clean up their property for years to make it more “firewise” but they were penalized under the old system. Dent wanted to make sure a change was made to the law to have a system in place that wouldn’t discourage landowners from following the rules.

Under House Bill 1924, an exemption was put in place to allow small forest landowners to hire someone without being subject to the farm labor contract statute, which can cost several hundred dollars and required posting a bond and getting additional insurance.

The legislation also directs the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to study the feasibility of multiyear burn permits and look at a reduced fee structure.

House Bill 1924 passed the House and Senate unanimously in the 2017 legislative session. The governor signed the bill into law on May 8, with Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz in attendance.