Rep. Abbarno still backing grant program to fund rural fire safety upgrades


State Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, is still backing legislation to establish a grant program to fund improvements to fire protection services in rural counties.

In a Friday news release, Abbarno said the legislation would direct the Department of Commerce to award up to $2 million per grant to local governments through a competitive grant program. According to Abbarno, the funds would assist rural communities with inadequate fire safety facilities.

The legislation was first introduced by Abbarno in the 2023 legislative session. It received a hearing in the Capital Budget Committee but did not advance. It will automatically be carried over to the next session. 

“Rural communities need help raising the funds necessary to meet the growing demand,” Abbarno said in the release. “With the reality of high gas prices, groceries and housing, state funds can help improve fire prevention infrastructure in rural communities without overburdening working families.”

The size and distribution of the grants would depend on how much the Legislature budgets for the program each cycle. 

Abbarno, the lead sponsor on the legislation, was joined by 12 other legislators on the proposal, including fellow 20th District representative Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, and 35th District Rep. Dan Griffey, R-Allyn.

Abbarno said when districts don't have sufficient fire protection, it increases insurance rates for commercial and residential customers. Abbarno said the program would create savings for homeowners and small businesses by reducing their insurance bill.

In the release, Abbarno highlighted recent investments in fire prevention in the district, which include $3 million for a fire station and emergency medical services station in South Thurston County, $2 million for a fire station remodel in Napavine and $515,000 to remodel the Lake Lawrence Fire station in Yelm.

“Following a fire season that saw the second-highest number of fire-starts in our state's history, it's more important than ever to invest in our local fire departments and promote fire prevention awareness,” Abbarno said in the release. “Many of our rural fire departments serve rapidly growing communities with old, outdated fire stations and equipment. I am proud of our key investments to boost fire department infrastructure.”

National Fire Prevention Week, first proclaimed in 1925, will run from Oct. 8 through 14. The theme this year is “Cooking safety starts with you. Pay attention to fire prevention.”