I really don’t mean to be disrespectful and I really tried not to write anything about this but I just had to. Mr. Oberstar has done many good things for Northeastern Minnesota that we are grateful for including this new FLAME Act. It will not only help us prepare for forest fires but will also help our forests as a whole. The USFS and BLM have been responsible for paying for fighting fires out of their normal funds that should be used to manage the land. Now thanks to Mr. Oberstar there will be a special fund set aside so the money will not be taken from the USFS.
The part I have to make fun of is one of Mr. Oberstar’s comments regarding the Ham Lake Fire. “When the Ham Lake fire first broke out in the spring of 2007, it could have been contained with a single modern fire truck,” Oberstar said. While this may have helped the FLAME Act along it isn’t a very accurate statement.
Anyone who was on the Gunflint Trail on May 5, 2007 knows that statement is completely false. The fire started on the edge of the wilderness, a short paddle and portage away from a side road 48 miles from Grand Marais, MN and about 2 miles away from the nearest fire hall. By the time the fire made it’s way to the road where a fire truck could do anything it was well out of control. There were airplanes dropping water almost immediately and even those did little except for to save the resort in the fire’s path. The fire moved so quickly back into the wilderness that 20 fire trucks would have done little good at that point. Had the wind not changed directions on the 6th of May we would have been in the clear but as most people know, the wind did blow.
In any case, here’s the information regarding the FLAME Act. It is a great thing and I’m thankful for all of Mr. Oberstar’s hard work and dedication to the Gunflint Trail and Northeastern Minnesota.
FLAME Act Will Improve Response to Minnesota Forest FiresThursday, March 26, 2009
Washington DC – Legislation to dedicate more funding and resources to fight forest and wild fires passed the U.S. House of Representatives today by an overwhelming margin. The Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act (FLAME) creates a special fund for fighting fires. In the past, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management were forced to use funds from other programs to pay for catastrophic fires.
“The Forest Service budget has become untenable; 48 percent of the Forest Service’s budget is currently used to fight fires and the shift of Forest Service funds for fire suppression has robbed other programs like recreation and the maintenance of our national lands and forests,” said Congressman Jim Oberstar. “This was a truly bipartisan bill, it passed by a margin of 412 to 3, only the prayer wins passage with a wider margin. Wildfire burns indiscriminately; it does not check for party affiliation, it simply destroys everything in its path.”
The FLAME legislation also establishes a wildfire grant program designed to assist communities in preparing for wildfires. Grants could be used for purchasing firefighting equipment and training programs for local firefighters. Grants could also be used for education and public awareness regarding wildfire.
“When the Ham Lake fire first broke out in the spring of 2007, it could have been contained with a single modern fire truck,” Oberstar said. “But the equipment was not there because the grant application was tied up in red tape with the Department of Homeland Security. That agency wanted to see a tie-in to terrorism before it would approve the funding. Well, in Northeast Minnesota, wildfire is a terrorist, and this new program will give first responders the tools they need to protect people and property."