A retired public information officer for the Black Hills National Forest, Frank Carroll, has written an op/ed column for the Rapid City Journal in which he mentions the possibility of “hard cuts” to the budget for South Dakota’s Wildland Fire Suppression Division. In the article he quotes Joe Lowe, the Director (or Fire Chief) of the Division who retired last January. Chief Lowe can be credited with rebuilding the organization over his 12-year tenure into one of the best state firefighting agencies in that part of the country.
Below is an excerpt from the article:
…“I had a good organization and the story needed to be told to the Legislature. … If they wanted to keep the [Black] Hills safe, they needed to spend the money,” [Chief Lowe] said.
“All of our fires involved private, state, and federal lands,” he said. “We kept fires small through sustained initial attack. We needed hand crews first, then fire engines, dozers, and aircraft, and we got them because the Legislature understood the need. Building a Type Two national fire team allowed our firefighters to hang on three or four days until help could arrive.”
Every year the Legislature has to buy in to the vision through the appropriations committees and this year is no different. There is talk of hard cuts to the organization it took so long to build, cuts that could cripple our firefighting capacity.
It’s important to remember our strong fire community happened for a purpose. Now is not the time for cutting back.
The state of Colorado, which probably has a much larger budget, could learn some lessons from South Dakota about how to build a state wildland fire organization. Hopefully, the South Dakota legislature will not dismantle it, and it can continue to serve as an example.
If you want to read the entire article it can be found here at the Rapid City Journal website. But be warned that a huge, loud, annoying, offensive, video advertisement may take over your screen for a while. I recommend that you don’t visit the site.
Thanks and a hat tip go out to Steve.