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1/16/2013 4:52:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Grants available to reduce fire feuls
Kacie Thrift
Staff Writer

Early last fall was a scary time for homeowners near the Wenatchee Complex Fires. In order to protect your property for the next fire season, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is offering project proposals to address and reduce the threat of wildfire in eastern Washington.

Projects will reduce wildfire threats by clearing vegetation, thinning, and pruning trees in high fire-risk areas throughout eastern Washington. Joe Weeks, Southeast Region DNR, said the DNR is asking people who want to sign up for any fire fuel reductions around their home and/or property make a request to DNR so they can make a list of all who are interested.

"We are inquiring from the public to help us figure out the amount of interest we have out there for these projects so when we apply for National Fire Grants we know how many people are interested," Weeks said.

Funding for the projects will be provided through DNR and by the U.S. Forest Service Wildland Urban Interface Community Assistance Grant Program. If someone in Chelan, Kittitas, Klickitat, or Yakima counties are interested, their land or home must be located within a completed Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP).

If qualified for the project, DNR will help homeowners by providing technical and financial assistance to help make their home more fire safe.

"Let's say, because of the Wenatchee fires, people are really concerned about their property and their homes and they say what can I do to protect my home," Weeks said. "First we go out and make an assessment with them and give them a recommendation on what they should do. We then tell them we have money to cost share with them at a 50-50 level up to certain amounts."

DNR will work with local CWPP groups within several eastern Washington counties to identify and prioritize projects. As long as you have property on forestland, you are eligible to apply.

Weeks said people often sign up, and then once they are told the amount for funds allocated for their project, they either hire someone to do the work and pay the difference or do the work them self.

"If they go out and do it themselves, that is what we call sweat equity and we will pay them a certain amount of an hourly rate for doing their services on their own property," Weeks said. "We will pay for their equipment and then they send in the bill and we pay them at roughly a 50-50 level up to a certain amount for each one of the practices they do."

DNR is responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 12.7 million acres of private, state, and tribal-owned forestlands. It is the state's largest on-call fire department, with over 1,000 employees trained and available to be dispatched to fires as needed. Weeks said DNR works every year to apply for national grants and uses the money to work on projects to reduce the threat of wildfires.

During the Taylor Bridge Fire in Kittitas County (fall 2012) a number of homes were saved due to fire hazard reduction projects. Weeks said there were a good number of properties that DNR did fuel reduction and none of them burnt down.

"An example is there were three houses in a row during the fire [Taylor Bridge] and the two outside properties had fuel reduction work done to them. The one in the middle burnt down and the other two were safe," Weeks said.

Working with DNR to reduce the threat of wildfires around your property is more than fuel management but also forest health management. Weeks said the two go hand in hand.

Community Wildfire Protection Plans are part of the fire prevention strategies for Washington's wildland urban interface communities, located in or near the woods. Many communities have mitigation plans or CWPPs that have already been completed.

"Basically we are looking for an additional bunch of people that show interest that they want to do work around their homes and properties so we can say when we turn in our grant applications that we have this certain amount of interest," Weeks said. "We try and educate people and say if you want the risk of fire or forest pests to be reduced you need to get rid of stems on your property."

To find out if your property qualifies and to apply for assistance from DNR, contact Joe Weeks at 509-925-8510. The deadline to contact DNR for fire reduction assistance is March 1, 2013.

Kacie Thrift may be reached at 782-3781 or

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