When our wildland firefighters are on the job, they receive an overwhelming amount of gratitude from the communities they serve. Driving down the street this summer in places like Benton City, Kennewick, or Eltopia, we saw a number of posters and reader boards that said, “Thank You, Firefighters.”
I agree. As the head of our state’s largest wildfire fighting force, I am incredibly proud of our brave firefighters at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.
They work 16-hour days, digging firelines, supporting air units, and facing dangers to protect our communities and keep us safe. Many of them consume 6,000 calories a day just to keep going, sleep outside under the stars, and wake up to do it all over again the next day. And they spend a lot of time away from their families.
This summer, our firefighters battled fires in every region of the state. They responded to more than 1,800 reported wildfires — a record number. Everywhere we went, Washingtonians welcomed us with open arms, and that was certainly the case in the Tri-Cities area. After long days of work, your gratitude, hugs, and encouragement kept our firefighters going.
Your support means everything to us, but there’s someone else who also deserves our gratitude, and that’s you. Thank you, Washington State. As you know, our wildfire seasons have become longer and more challenging, and you’ve endured a lot.
Smoky skies may have kept you inside, especially if you’re sensitive to poor air quality. At one point this summer, wildfire smoke gave our state the unenviable distinction of having the worst air quality in the world. Little League practices and soccer games were canceled, and you weren’t able to enjoy the summers that so many of us know and love.
Some of you had to prepare to evacuate, gathering your most valuable possessions. Some of you did evacuate and wondered if you would lose your home. And some of you did lose your home — a home full of memories and things that are difficult or even impossible to replace.
I know it’s hard for you to deal with smoke and evacuations. I know it’s hard to deal with loss. That’s why all of us at the Department of Natural Resources want to say, “thank you.”
Thank you for your patience. Thank you for supporting us. Thank you for being strong. We’re all in this together, and your support and perseverance makes all the difference.
Hilary S. Franz is the Commissioner of Public Lands – a statewide elected official who leads the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. She has served as Commissioner of Public Lands since 2017. Learn more at www.dnr.wa.gov.