OKLAHOMA CITY - Senator Jeff Rabon has asked Governor Frank Keating to amend his special session call. The Hugo Democrat said the State Senate had approved legislation to allow the Department of Agriculture to issue up to $10 million in bonds to replace out-dated, unusable forestry equipment, however the House adjourned sine die before taking up the measure.
"This is really a critical situation. The severe ice-storms that hit Southeast and Eastern Oklahoma last winter left a tremendous amount of broken branches and limbs on forest floors," explained Rabon. "We've been fortunate so far, because we've had enough rain to keep the fire danger low. But this is Oklahoma, and as everyone knows, that could change very quickly."
Senator Rabon said there is a tremendous concern that if the weather develops into a drought pattern, all the additional dead wood on the forest floors could fuel devastating fires throughout the state. He said the bond issue would pay for critically needed fire fighting equipment, including bulldozers, radios, water storage tanks and transport vehicles.
"We've literally had firefighters lose their lives in Oklahoma due to inadequate, malfunctioning or outdated equipment. We need to get this legislation passed before another firefighter is injured or killed," said Senator Rabon.
Rabon said officials within the Department of Agriculture said they would be able to absorb the debt service on the bonds through their existing appropriations.
The legislature is scheduled to meet in Special Session in September.