Nebraska wildfire control bill wins initial approval
By Tyler King
OMAHA, Nebraska: The Nebraska State Legislature voted 36-0 to advance Legislative Bill 634, sponsored by Senator Al Davis, which would appropriate $1.7 million in order to improve the response to wildfires in rural Nebraska. The bill would commit state aid to place firefighting airplanes in Chadron and Valentine during fire season, thin state forests, and offer new training to emergency responders. Nebraska experienced 1,570 wildfires last year that burned a total of 786 square miles. Many of the fires are blamed on eastern red cedar trees, which are invasive and highly flammable.
Though the bill won initial approval, lawmakers warned that the state would need to do more to solve emergency communications problems. Nebraska spent $17.3 million to develop a system to improve radio coverage. In the past year, the system failed in three confrontations involving injuries to troopers and deputies. Crews battling wildfires in northern Nebraska last summer also experienced problems with radio communication.