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New state program aims to make Gig Harbor Wildfire Ready

Posted on June 3rd, 2024 By:

Wildfire Ready Neighbors, a statewide initiative that helps property owners prepare their homes for wildfires, expanded to Gig Harbor last week. 

State Public Land Commissioner Hilary Franz unveiled the new program during a press conference at Fire Station 50 in Gig Harbor on May 31. Officials from the Washington Department of Natural Resources and Gig Harbor Fire and Medic One joined her.

Wildfire Ready Neighbors

Wildfire Ready Neighbors provides state residents with strategies that can protect their homes in the event of a wildfire. Homeowners can receive customized action plans to fire-proof their homes and request an in-person inspection from a wildfire expert. Residents can sign-up for these free services at

“This is a significant step in wildfire preparedness,” Franz said in a speech announcing the program. “It’s absolutely critical given how significant the risks are.” 

Washington state Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, left, and Gig Harbor Fire and Medic One Chief Dennis Doan discuss the Wildfire Ready Neighbors program on Friday, May 31. Photo by Conor Wilson

Wildfires are no longer a problem only in central or eastern Washington, Franz said. They pose a growing threat on the western side of the state.

“The reality is, we have been seeing year-after-year an increase in wildfires west of the Cascades,” she said. “Last year, for the first time in Washington state history — recorded Washington state history — we had more wildfires west of the Cascades than east of the Cascades.”  

Wildfire Ready Neighbors has now expanded to 11 Washington counties, Franz said. It started as a pilot program in Chlean, Okanagan and Spokane counties in 2020, shortly after a Labor Day fire storm in Eastern Washington where 56 fires ignited in 24 hours. 

Prevention in action

Walking through the town of Malden in Whitman County, one of the epicenters of the 2020 fires, Franz noticed a select few homes that escaped damage.

Gig Harbor firefighters on the scene of Sunday's brush fire.

Gig Harbor firefighters at a brush fire in June 2023.

“On almost every single block was a home that was completely untouched. It literally looked like luck had just come to that family,” she said. “As I learned more, I realized there’s a lot our homeowners can do to prevent fire from coming to the home.”

Gig Harbor Fire and Medic One Chief Dennis Doan said he was excited to see the Wildfire Ready program expanding to the community. The more homes that prepare for wildfires, he said, the safer it will be for firefighters.

“As firefighters, when we show up to their homes if the neighborhood and homeowners have taken these steps it protects us,” he said. “If a home has not prepared itself, then we’re going to have to stop and put resources on that home. But if we have an entire block or a home or a neighborhood that has done this – that is wildfire ready — we can attack the fire directly.” 

Conor Wilson is a Murrow News fellow, reporting for Gig Harbor Now and the Bremerton-based newspaper Kitsap Sun, through a program managed by Washington State University.