States, Feds Coordinate Fire Fighting Efforts

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThere are no political parties in the U.S. Senate when it comes to fighting wildfires. The Senate recently approved a multi-state fire response pact that lets Colorado combine fire fighting efforts with neighboring states.Senators Ken Salazar (D-CO), Wayne Allard (R-CO), Tim Johnson (D-SD), and Mike Enzi (R-WY) co-sponsored S. 975 bill by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) that allow states of Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming to share resources used to fight wildfires. Salazar said, “If states can share resources to help protect people’s homes and businesses, as well as our natural heritage, it’s a no-brainer to do so.”

According to Sen. Salazar’s press release:

Under the U.S. Constitution, for states to enter into interstate compacts, it must be approved by Congress and signed into law by the President. It was approved at the state level in 2006 by the Colorado General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Owens as a part of larger piece of legislation that established Colorado’s Wildfire Preparedness Fund.

This compact, similar to Colorado’s many interstate water compacts, will allow these states to legally share their wildfire resources, allowing better regional wildfire fighting focus. In addition, by entering into this compact, Colorado will also be able to receive support from neighboring states in existing compacts.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWorking under the umbrella of the national Wildfire Coordinating Group, federal government agencies including the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and others now coordinate their fire fighting response. The West is divided into several wildfire prevention districts — Region One includes Idaho, North and South Dakota, and Montana; Colorado is in Region Two with Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas.

Agreements in a multi-state agreement can be complex. For instance, in the Region II management handbook contains specifics on wages, fire equipment used and transportation of fire fighters.