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House Passes Thune Fire-Fighting Legislation

Bill To Bring Together SD, ND, WY, and CO Forces in Fighting Fires Headed to the President

July 30, 2007

Washington, D.C. —  The House of Representatives today passed Senator John Thune's bill, S. 975, which would allow South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado to enter into agreements to share resources and aid each other in fighting forest fires. In order for states to officially work together under such an agreement, Congressional approval is required. This legislation now will be sent to President Bush to be signed into law.

The Senate passed the bill on July 13th by unanimous consent. Co-sponsors of Senator Thune's legislation include Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Wayne Allard (R-CO), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Tim Johnson (D-SD), and the late Craig Thomas (R-WY).

"In South Dakota in 2006, there were more than 2,000 wildland fires that caused damage to more than 230,000 acres of land," Thune said. "This year we have already experienced the devastation that fire can bring with the Alabaugh Canyon Fire which burned over 10,000 acres and destroyed more than 35 homes. I saw this devastation firsthand earlier this month. While our firefighters and emergency response personnel in South Dakota are some of the most highly skilled in the country, we need to make sure they have the reinforcements they need when crises arise and there are simply not enough men and women on the ground to fight these extreme fires.

"The states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado can now join forces in fighting forest fires. This creates an interstate pact in which South Dakota could count on the help of other states when conditions reach crisis level. This type of pact is particularly important when we consider the severe drought conditions that this region has been dealing with over the last six years.

"With such agreements that help us plan and prepare for nature's most dangerous threats, we can keep families, businesses and South Dakota land safer and better protected. I applaud the House for acting quickly on this important issue."

At Governor Mike Rounds suggestion, Senator Thune introduced this important measure. During the Alabaugh fire, Joe Lowe, South Dakota's Wildland fire coordinator noted that Senator Thune's firefighting compact bill was his number one priority and would have a tremendous impact on how fires are managed in our state and the surrounding region.