Shoshone-Bannock fire crews are back in action, after paperwork glitches kept them off the interagency dispatch list. Sho-Ban wildlands fire crews were sent to blazes on Montana's Flathead Indian Reservation, joining firefighters from the BIA and the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d'Oreilles tribes. "Because of the situation dealing with the safety issue we're kind of looked down upon," said Danford Dann, Sho-Ban wildland coordinator. A close call on Idaho's Moonshine Fire caused a rift between the tribal firefighters and the Bureau of Land Management. Then, lost records forced most of the crew bosses to be pulled from the dispatch list for retraining, idling about 200 firefighters. Dann said behind-the-scenes praise helps keep staff morale afloat. He read from a letter from Utah homeowners Karen and Gary Bovyer whose property Sho-Ban crews helped to protect earlier this season. "The Sho-Bans were working and they came down for a break from the smoke and the 100-plus-degree heat. ... There is an obvious bond of respect between the crew representative and the Sho-Ban crew. We want to extend out heartfelt 'thank you' for the help we received." Dann said the Bovyers' home was "just magnificent. These guys protected it and saved it. Things like this are kind of overlooked."
The first enforceable air pollution rules have been issued for Astaris at its elemental phosphorus plant. "If this facility had been anywhere other than on tribal land, it would have been under state or local regulation long ago," said Gil Hasselberger, who oversees the former FMC Corp. plant for the federal agency. Environmental Protection engineers said the rules will greatly improve visibility on the reservation and in Pocatello. Roger Turner, air quality specialist for the tribes directly downwind from the plant, said they had not yet reviewed the rules in detail but believe it means a large drop in particulate in the air. "What we've talked about is an approximately 80 percent reduction in particulate matter," Astaris spokesman Arlen Wittrock agreed. When the plant drops to two furnaces in 2002, emissions will drop another 10 percent. Elevated and ground flares will be replaced with an excess carbon monoxide burner, eliminating continuous flaring. The rules are the result of a 1997 lawsuit by the local Portneuf Environmental Council, claiming the federal agency ignored local air pollution in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. Hot pour slag ladling devices will be installed by Nov. 1, replacing a system whereby slag was poured directly onto the ground and cooled.