Recent Op-Eds

For many of us, summer is a time for fun around the campfire and enjoying the outdoors. It is a time for kids roasting marshmallows and parents exchanging stories and keeping a watchful eye to make sure no one gets hurt. However, for others, summer fires mean quick moving grassfires on the prairies or dangerous forest fires moving across difficult terrain. Unfortunately, the hot and dry conditions in some regions of the country are only made worse by additional fire fuel loads due to the pine beetle epidemic.

Television and newspapers across the country have been filled with pictures and stories of friends and families clinging to the hope that their homes, businesses, and schools will survive. We first saw the raging devastation spread across Colorado, destroying homes and everything in its path. Our attention was turned closer to home with the Crow Peak and Dakota Fire incidents eating up acres of the Black Hills National Forest. Sadly, this was followed by the terrible news of a North Carolina Air National Guard C-130 tanker crashing while fighting the White Draw fire near Edgemont. South Dakotans’ thoughts and prayers are with the crew and their loved ones coping with this tragedy.

As with the recently Senate-passed Farm bill that included my proposal to better address the pine beetle epidemic facing the Black Hills and other regions, I will continue to work toward finding common sense solutions to better assist property owners and firefighters who are placed in harm’s way. While touring the area and meeting with those involved in fighting these fires, I was reminded that these events serve as a caution to all of us to be careful while we are spending time in dry areas across South Dakota. A fire can spread quickly putting life and property in danger and requiring the brave men and women who answer the fire call to report to duty.