‘Every person has to do something’: New program kicks off in Spokane County to prevent wildfires

ELK, Wa. — This year, firefighters have already had to put out over 250 wildfires in the state. These fires devastate communities and cost the state millions of dollars in rebuilding costs. Now, state leaders are focusing on prevention versus reaction with the Wildfire Ready Neighbors program in Spokane County.

The program is all about equipping residents with the tools they need to fireproof their homes. You can sign up for the program here. It’s totally free, and a fire expert will come out to your home or apartment and help you come up with a fire safety plan. They’ll also tell you if there are issues you should be worried about and how you can address the concerns.

“We believe that our communities who are on the frontlines of these wildfires can do something to make a change,” said Hilary Franz, Washington’s Commissioner of Public Lands.

Spokane County is one of three pilot counties for the program this year. The other two counties involved are Chelan and Okanogan. These counties were chosen because they’re considered high-risk fire counties.

Barbara Wilson knows the effects of wildfires firsthand. She’s had two fires on her property.

“It can wipe you out and then we’ll have nothing,” Wilson said. “It’s very scary. Every person has to do something then maybe we won’t have that problem.”

She’s hoping more people can take action early on so there isn’t as much wildfire destruction this year. She’s had her trees cut back and worked with an expert to address other fire hazards on her property.

“Every summer, for a couple of years, the smoke has been so bad because of the fires,” Wilson said. “I’m hoping that the education that we receive from these kinds of community things will help everyone.”

Charlie Bennett is also hopeful the new program will get people thinking about prevention early on. He’s working to educate his neighbors about wildfire safety, serving as a Wildfire Ready Neighborhood Captain.

“There’s more fire danger and more people starting fires, and we just want to be ahead of that danger,” Bennett said.

You can also sign up to be a neighborhood captain in your community. If you’re passionate about prevention, you can help get more people activated to fight the flames before they break out.

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