Acquisition of vacant Klickitat County buildings, funded with House Bill 1168 moneys, increases firefighting capabilities in Columbia River Gorge
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources will purchase the former Dallesport Elementary School to create a new regional wildfire response center in the Columbia River Gorge after the Board of Natural Resources approved the transaction during its meeting Tuesday morning.
The school building in Klickitat County, closed since 2016 due to decreasing enrollment across the Lyle School District, and the 3.6-acre property will be purchased for $1.6 million. The sale will allow the district to reduce duplicate expenses and overhead costs.
“The community of Dallesport and its former elementary school are in a geographically advantageous location, uniquely positioned to help DNR achieve our goal of strategically placing firefighters across Washington state,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, the elected official who oversees DNR. “This transaction will have a lasting, positive impact for the residents of Dallesport and the state for generations to come.”
“From the start of this process, the district has looked for potential buyers who would benefit the local community,” said Lyle School District Superintendent Ann Varkados. “The Lyle School District Board of Directors and I are pleased with DNR’s plans for the property and proud that it will benefit not only the mid-Columbia Gorge, but the entire region.”
This purchase is funded with money appropriated by the Legislature to fund House Bill 1168, the landmark wildfire and forest resiliency legislation passed unanimously earlier this year.
Approximately 65 DNR employees will be stationed out of the response center in Dallesport, including 27 new hires anticipated to be hired in spring 2022.
The 19,000-square-foot main building, constructed in 1997, and 5,500-square-foot annex will be retrofit to include crew quarters, a training facility, office space, shop, and equipment storage, with an additional $2.5 million of HB 1168 funds.
The Board meeting was held remotely as part of DNR’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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