Letters to the Editor – April 13

The morning of April 1 was anything but a normal Saturday in Spearfish. The firefighters and community are still trying to grasp the enormity of five dead kids. Five dead kids.

The five were between the ages of six and 11 years old, who died in a house fire that morning in Spearfish. Several other people were treated in the hospital. The fire was reported shortly before 0430 hours and when the Spearfish Fire Department got there, it was heavily involved – fire everywhere, Regardless, the Firefighters tried to make entry when the neighbors and family members told them there were kids trapped inside…they did what they could, but with the volume of fire, there was just no way they could get in to perform a search. There is no doubt in our minds that they performed as they are expected to, as we all would – but sometimes superhuman just doesn’t work.

Of the many things that would prompt us to write about this fire, there is one thing in particular. It appears that there was possibly a sleepover or party happening at the time of the fire. Well as soon as you worry about all the stuff you will worry about, we are asking you to worry about one more thing. Alarms. Working alarms in the house.

Carbon monoxide alarms and working smoke alarms.

We don’t know yet if the home in Spearfish had a working smoke alarm. But that is irrelevant right now and the facts will probably be out soon.

The issue right now is you and your kids. Your grand kids, nieces, nephews, step kids. Whatever-kids. Make it a priority of yours that you will NEVER stay anywhere or leave your kids anywhere-in particular a sleepover, without making sure that the smoke alarms work. Ask them to test them for you. Yes. Really.

Annoy your neighbors, your family, your friend-whoever is going to be in charge of that roof over your kids for the evening, Trust no one to think that “of course they have smoke alarms”…don’t be so sure. Here are some facts from the NFPA, the National Fire Protection Association:

Smoke alarms provide an early warning of a fire, giving people additional escape time. In 2009-2013, smoke alarms sounded in more than half (53%) of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments.

Three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (38%) or no working smoke alarms (21%)…often with the batteries missing.

The death rate per 100 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms compared to the rate in homes with working smoke alarms (1.18 deaths vs. 0.53 deaths per 100 fires).

In fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate, almost half (46%) of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries.

Dead batteries caused one-quarter (24%) of the smoke alarm failures.

So what kind of smoke alarms should you buy? Many fire organizations recommend the use of photoelectric or a combination of both ionization and photo-electric smoke alarms. According to experts, the photoelectric alarms are less likely to sound nuisance alarms so because of that are less likely to be disabled.

In addition to working alarms we also recommend collapsible escape ladders for upstairs bedrooms for use in the event that the stairway is involved in fire.

Make sure that you and your family, friends, neighbors and anyone else you know have an escape plan from the home, along with a dedicated meeting place to assure everyone is accounted for, and practice your escape plan on a regular basis.

We can only imagine all of the emotions that those involved in the Spearfish incident, and the community, are experiencing. Imagine how devastating that would be for all of us here.

If you would like any assistance in developing an escape plan, or information on fire safety and prevention please contact Fire Chief Chris Tomford at 307-290-1137. SVFD also has a limited number of new smoke detectors available if you need one and cannot afford to buy one.

Stay safe,

Sundance Volunteer Fire Department

Dear Editor:

According to the July 14, 2016, report by the Congressional Research Service entitled Salaries and Allowances: In Brief, in order to ensure the welfare of the citizens of their district or state, we pay members of Congress a base annual salary of $174,000. They also enjoy generous health and life insurance provisions. A Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) is available to support legislators in their official and representational duties and may be used for expenses including staff, travel, mail, office equipment, district office rental, stationery and other supplies. The average MRA is $1,268,520 apiece. Our senators are authorized not more than 5,000 square feet of home state office space in federal buildings plus $40,000 for furnishings from an approved list. A senator’s annual Official Personnel and Office Expense Account (SOPOEA) averages around $3,306,570.

Enzi, Barrasso and Cheney must face us voters! We have allowed elected officials to forget or simply ignore the fact that they are servants of the people, not the pawns of special interests. We are dismayed by what appears to be a pattern of deliberate avoidance and willful neglect that clearly demonstrates contempt for us constituents.

A group of non-partisan residents hopes to remedy this situation and has invited our three congressmen to connect with us at two town hall meetings during this month’s recess. We will assemble on Tuesday, April 11 in the county library’s Cottonwood Room to pose questions and to offer feedback on their service. A second opportunity to join us has been arranged for the following week on Wednesday, April 19 in Room 130 of LCCC’s CCI Building. Both will be moderated by former CBS News Anchor Dave Lerner from 6 until 8 p.m.

It surely appears that our current administration is bent on destroying our nation’s life support systems. Since thousands of us here in Wyoming fear our country is in crisis, face-to-face discussions with our representatives are now most definitely in order. We badly need our Legislature diligently working to protect programs for which we are taxed, preserve important federal protections and steadfastly defend all of our cherished constitutional freedoms.

Geri Maria Johnson


Education and financing

Truly, the discussion about financing education and its results is long overdue. At least 50 to 60 years overdue.

Some facts to consider: Cost per pupil K-12 in Wyoming is running $16, 511 a year. Project that through to graduation and the bill will be $257,841 per child, this simply is not sustainable. Every year hundreds of billions of tax payer dollars, Federal, State and Local are poured into America’s public school systems to the tune of $621 billion annually and counting. This makes the average pupil cost over $12,000.

While 82% of high school seniors graduate on time, only 37% are prepared for college coursework in reading and math. This is a terrible waste of a young person’s life.

A recent international student assessment survey of 15 year old students in 34 countries showed Americans ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math. And 25 of the nations surveyed also had higher graduation rates than the United States.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Education has reported that school students, since 1950, have increased 96%. Public school teachers have increased 252% and the number of “full time equivalent” public school employees who are NOT classroom teachers increased by 386%.

Any school district in Wyoming thinking of suing the State to restore funding to previous levels need to be prepared to show that their graduates are just that much smarter than any other graduates in the world. Funding for education in this country has become more convoluted with establishment of the Federal Education Department. Constituents, (tax payers-parents) should have started questioning the road we were traveling then, but we didn’t.

It is only the tyranny of the status quo that leads us to take for granted, that in schooling, government monopoly is the best way for government to achieve its objective. Centralized government with bureaucracies and inherent predisposition to stagnation is not good at providing the diversity of educational opportunities and choices that a nation as diverse as America needs and that our children deserve.

Far too many years our Wyoming Legislators have let the Government monopolies (public funded school systems) come to the trough for more and more tax payer money without demanding accountability. There are millions of teachers out there eager to help young people learn. With proficiency in reading, writing and basic math, students can educate themselves if they so desire.

Who is going to conduct the affairs of the country if we end up with a population that doesn’t read or write, and knows nothing about history or geography? How much longer are the hard working taxpayers (over 300 million) going to tolerate the stagnation of our public school system and its funding to the administration of education (around 3½ million) As a thought provoking phrase. Every adult needs a child to teach; it’s the way adults learn.


Jw Nuckolls