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House committee approves wildfire response bill

OLYMPIA - One of Rep. Bruce Chandler's priorities for this year's session was making changes at the state level to provide a coordinated wildfire response for stranded land.

Two bills sponsored by Chandler are moving forward, as House committees have recently approved the legislation.

House Bill 2667 would help various responders to communicate with each other by requiring a specified radio channel be used for fire response during a wildfire.

"After the Dry Creek blaze, it was learned that responders couldn't communicate with each other as well as they needed," said Chandler, R-Granger. "It's common sense to bring them all to the same place for information and give them the ability to fight a fire more effectively."

The legislation was approved by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and has since been placed on the calendar for a vote by the full House.

House Bill 2549 would improve fire protection services for lands outside of fire district boundaries, also known as "stranded land." The bill would also protect firefighters' liability when responding to wildfires outside of their districts.

"We should not let a wildfire grow simply because it's outside a fire district," Chandler said. "It simply becomes a public safety risk and adds to the costs to taxpayers. Firefighters who are willing and able to help put out a fire should be able to do so without fear of legal ramifications."

That bill was approved Monday by the House Local Government and Housing Committee, and now awaits action by the House Rules Committee to be placed on the House floor calendar.

Chandler has worked with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, as well as fire commissioners, fire chiefs and property owners to ensure the most helpful and effective legislation is passed.

"We have made amendments to this legislation to avoid unintended consequences for fire districts or taxpayers," Chandler said. "It's important we get this right since it will set a precedent for other areas without fire protection in Washington."

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