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Thune calls on Forest Service to accept responsibility for Pautre fire

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Thune, R-S.D., on Tuesday sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack calling on the Forest Service to accept responsibility for the April 3, 2013, Pautre Fire, and to approve damage claims from individuals who lost buildings, trees, bales of forage, and fences in the burn. Ranchers also suffered livestock losses from smoke inhalation from the fire, which burned out of control until April 7, 2013.

On April 3, 2013, the Forest Service conducted a prescribed burn located on the Grand River Ranger District of the Dakota Prairie Grassland. The burn was intended to cover 130 acres of dead crested wheatgrass, but due to the hot, dry, and windy conditions the fire quickly escalated out of control and consumed more than 10,000 acres of Forest Service and private lands. The U.S. Drought Monitor, which tracks rainfall and drought conditions in the United States, showed northwest South Dakota at severe and extreme drought intensities on March 26, 2013. Intentionally starting a fire under these conditions for any reason would be considered risky and dangerous.

The Federal Tort Claims Act allows the ranchers who suffered losses in the Pautre Fire to file administrative claims up to two years following the burn. The Fire Service has yet to publicly take responsibility for the Pautre Fire leaving these families with a great deal of uncertainty if their claims will ever be paid.

-- Source: Office of Sen. John Thune

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