Wishing you and your family a Happy July 4th!

Wenatchee Valley from above e-banner

July 1, 2022

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The July 4th holiday is only a few days away. Many of us will celebrate our Independence Day by cooking outdoors with our families, enjoying various water-based activities in our area, or some hiking in one or more of the many awesome recreational sites in our district. If you have a military veteran in your family or you know veterans within your community, please take time to thank them for their service in celebration of our freedom. However you choose to celebrate the Fourth, I hope you have a fun and safe time here at home or traveling outside our area.

Celebrate our community fireworks

Despite our unusually cool spring, summer weather is now here and the risk for wildfires in our region is high. There already have been a few small fires in or near communities in the 12th District, and we still have several more months of the “fire season.” In recent years, the communities in North Central Washington, sadly, have experienced a significant impact from catastrophic wildfire. I encourage families to enjoy the community celebrations of fireworks, which are approved by our local governments and conducted in close coordination with local firefighting agencies. The Wenatchee Valley fireworks celebration is back this year at Walla Walla Point Park. Beginning at noon on July 4, food and artistic vendors will be available along with local candidates, L-Bow the Clown, face-painting, and fun competitions. The fireworks are expected to begin around 10 p.m.

Fireworks over Capitol

Wishing you and your families a happy July 4th holiday. Shown in the picture are fireworks shining bright above the Washington State Capitol in Olympia. Wenatchee is hosting a community fireworks celebration on July 4th at Walla Walla Point Park. Fireworks will begin around 10 p.m., but a variety of vendors will be in the park throughout the day. For more details, click here.

Personal fireworks prohibited in most areas

Discharging personal fireworks is prohibited in most areas of the 12th District. While many wildfires result from lightning strikes and other natural causes, far too many fires are caused by us, through fireworks, campfires, personal burns, and sparking equipment. In order to be effective and responsive to wildfire, we need an “all hands, all lands” approach, which is something often shared by Commissioner Hilary Franz of the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This means we all have an individual and collective role that we can play to minimize the potential for wildfires. We also need to continue supporting local and federal firefighting agencies as well as encourage private landowners to continue their proactive efforts to reduce wildfire risks. As our state senator, I work most closely with our state wildfire agencies on forest management and firefighting practices. The DNR responds to nearly 1,700 fires each year. This past year, wildfires continued to impact our region, prompting close coordination with local firefighters in the Wenatchee Valley and Okanogan County. Among last year’s fires were Wenatchee’s Red Apple Fire and the Cedar Creek and Cub Creek fires in the Methow Valley.

WA wildfire areas map

This map, provided by DNR, shows the regions of Washington at risk of wildfires.

Proactive forest management and fire response

Our risk of wildfire has been increasing, which is why proactive measures for forest management and fire response are necessary. These two areas will continue to be important priorities for me as I advocate for our district and adequate wildfire funding. In Washington state, we have been working toward a stronger, more comprehensive approach to reducing our risk of wildfires. I’ve worked closely with Commissioner Franz and DNR staff over recent years and am very proud of the bill we passed together in 2017, Senate Bill 5546, to direct the state DNR to set up a framework for assessing and treating fire-prone lands. I’ve also been very encouraged by the agency’s Wildland Fire Protection 10-Year Strategic Plan. This process is now underway, but it will likely take several years of aggressive thinning and responsible prescribed fire in order to minimize our risk of catastrophic fires. As we’ve learned from the Era of Megafires discussions that originated in Wenatchee, we must take a proactive approach with wildfires in all neighborhoods and at every level of government. This includes responsible thinning and prescribed burning on state and federal forestlands, along with taking aggressive steps to create defensible space around your homes and neighborhoods through the Firewise Program. We must also ensure that our government’s firefighting capability is as effective and efficient as possible.

Wenatchee Red Fire photo

In July 2021, the Red Apple Fire burned over 12,000 acres and caused evacuations of nearly 1,500 homes in Wenatchee’s Sunnyslope area. Five outbuildings were destroyed, but fortunately no homes were lost in the fire. I am grateful to all of the firefighters and first responders who prevented significant damage to Sunnyslope homes and families.

Increasing state support for wildfires

For the 2021-23 biennium, the state budget significantly increased its support for forest health and wildfire response. Positioning additional resources in strategic locations across the state has shortened the response time when new blazes are spotted and has helped us put out fires soon after they start rather than just “managing” the fires once they begin burning. The state has recently converted to year-round wildfire staff, funded more seasonal staff, acquired additional firefighting air assets, and has contracted for priority private aircraft response. The Legislature also approved House Bill 1168 to direct investments of $500 million over the next eight years for wildfire response, forest restoration, and community resilience.

I was proud to join my legislative colleagues in supporting this bill last session. Passing this expanded policy was a multi-year effort by Commissioner Hilary Franz and her DNR staff. I was very proud to support this effort. To learn more about this new law, please click here. These new investments are important because the state has already spent hundreds of millions in recent years reimbursing the costs of wildfires. And that does not even factor in the negative long-term economic impact that wildfires have had on communities in our district, including the impact on our all-important tourism or recreational opportunities. There are also emotional costs and losses that cannot be quantified, as courageous firefighters from our area, sadly, have lost their lives or been severely injured battling these blazes. Finally, there is a quality-of-life impact caused by wildfires, as smoke can blanket a region, making it dangerous for people to be outdoors and difficult for many to breathe.

Cedar & Cub Creek fire map

In July 2021, the Cedar Creek and Cub Creek 2 fires burned in the Methow Valley, during its peak outdoor recreation and tourism season. The fires resulted in home evacuations, closure of the North Cascades Highway, and air quality impacts.

History of my sponsored wildfire bills

During my years of work in the Senate, I have developed a strong partnership with my legislative colleagues and the DNR. During my first term as 12th District senator, three of my bills related to forest health or wildfire prevention were passed by the Legislature and signed into law, and last year, my first year of my second term, I sponsored and helped pass Senate Bill 5158. Commissioner Franz and her DNR staff worked diligently alongside me for each effort. Below is a summary of these four approved bills:

  • Senate Bill 5158 (approved, 2021) establishes the Utility Wildland Fire Prevention Advisory Committee to implement recommendations issued in this report. The group’s work includes establishing model agreements to remove dangerous trees, finalizing communications protocols and investigation recommendations. This work is very important to many of our local utilities.
  • SB 6211 (approved, 2018) provides DNR authority to handle revenue and authorize spending under the Good Neighbor Authority agreement signed by DNR and the U.S. Forest Service in 2017. The Good Neighbor Authority is a partnership between governments to streamline management of national forestlands.
  • Senate Bill 6032, Sec. 303 (approved, 2018) directs funds to the Washington State Parks, at the request of the Forest Ridge Wildfire Coalition, for forest management activities at the Squilchuck State Park in Chelan County.
  • Senate Bill 5546 (approved, 2017) directs DNR to set up a framework for assessing the health of fire-prone lands and treating them. It sets a specific goal of assessing and treating 1 million acres over 16 years, most likely through prescribed fire and mechanical thinning. The bill also includes a stakeholder process and biennial progress reviews to the Legislature.
  • Senate Bill 5270 (approved, 2017) was passed unanimously by both legislative chambers and signed into law by the governor to remove the “temporary” label from the contract-timber harvest program operated by DNR. The program allows the agency to hire someone to harvest timber and sort the logs, after which DNR can sell them. It began in 2003 and was expanded by lawmakers in 2009.
DNR 2021 Lake Chelan Fire

Our region has suffered many wildfires, including the 2021 Twentyfive Mile Fire in Chelan. This photo was taken by firefighter Zach Fuecker.

Message from Commissioner Hilary Franz

"It has been a privilege to serve as your Commissioner of Public Lands alongside leaders like Senator Hawkins. During our time in office, we have worked in partnership to confront the wildfire crisis that your community knows all too well, including passing the historic House Bill 1168 last year. As we move closer to wildfire season, we are doing everything in our power to prevent the devastation we’ve seen in years past. This includes tapping into the power of prevention and an 'all hands, all lands' strategy with our partners at the federal, state, tribal, and local levels to not only fight fires, but keep them from starting in the first place. We are dedicated to helping the 12th District become more resilient to wildfire, as well as working year-round to make our forests healthier, so that we can redefine this crisis not just in the short-term, but for future generations.”

  • Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands
2015 firefighters

Local firefighters supporting each other during the 2015 Chelan Complex fires. Wildfires across the western United States are stretching our air and land resources.

Listen to my recent local radio interviews

During the summer months, I frequently participate in local radio interviews. Last week, I joined KOZI Radio in Chelan for a live interview, which is included below. I also recently participated in a full-hour interview with KPQ’s Dave Bernstein to recap the recent legislative session, which you can also listen to below. With all the competition within social media and online podcasting, it is a tremendous community benefit to still have local stations committed to broadcasting community news.

  • KPQ’s “The Agenda” interview – click here
  • KOZI Radio interview – click here 

I wish you and your families a safe and happy July 4th holiday.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your state senator.



Brad Hawkins

State Senator Brad Hawkins
12th Legislative District

Website: senatorbradhawkins.org

107 Newhouse Building - P.O. Box 40412 | Olympia, WA 98504-0412
(360) 786-7622 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000