Recent Press Releases

Thune Fire-Fighting Legislation Becomes Law

Bill Brings Together SD, ND, WY, and CO Forces in Fighting Fires

August 13, 2007

Washington, D.C. —  President Bush today signed into law legislation authored by Senator John Thune (S. 975), allowing 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.

The Senate passed the bill on July 13th by unanimous consent. The House passed Senator Thune's bill on July 30th.

"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. 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.

"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 our 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 my colleagues in the House and Senate for recognizing the urgency in passing my legislation and President Bush for signing this important measure into law."

At Governor Mike Rounds suggestion, Senator Thune introduced this important measure in March of 2007 due to concern about the upcoming fire season. 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.