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Wildland Fire Suppression Chief Retires




For Immediate Release: Jan. 23, 2012

Media Contact: Beth Hermanson, 605-381-7232


Wildland Fire Suppression Chief Retires


RAPID CITY, S.D. - Joe Lowe retired today from his position as division director/fire chief for the South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression, leaving the fire service after a successful 36-year career.

 Lowe started as a California firefighter and came up through the ranks.

 The Division was created on July 1, 2001, within the South Dakota Department of Agriculture at the request of the late-Gov. Bill Janklow and approval of the state Legislature.  Lowe was the first division director/fire chief.

 “Joe has been a great leader and committed the last 10 years of his career to developing a strong and efficient wildland fire agency for the state and region,” said Walt Bones, South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture. “His accomplishments speak to his dedication to the people of South Dakota.”

 During his term as head of the Wildland Fire Suppression Division, Lowe:

           - Was the driving force in establishment of the Great Plains Interstate Fire Compact, which allows for the exchange of fire resources between states.

          - Led and guided development of the State Handcrew Program in 2001; it has since continued to excel as a national fire asset. The crews have been to fires in nine states, and were called into action during the Space Shuttle recovery and Hurricane Rita.

          - Instituted a comprehensive State Aerial Firefighting Program that allowed for swift deployment of Air Tankers to fires.

         - Established the Rocky Mountain Type II Incident Management Team C and was the team’s first Incident Commander. In addition to major fires throughout the region, the team managed response to Missouri River flooding in southeastern South Dakota. The team coordinated and oversaw construction of a levee six miles long and 11 feet tall in eight days. The levee protected $370 million worth of community infrastructure at Dakota Dunes.

 “I leave knowing that the men and women of this division will carry on the vision of the fire agency”, Lowe said of his retirement.

 South Dakota’s firefighters are some of the best in the nation, he added.

 Lowe and his wife, Wendy, will continue to reside in South Dakota, and he will serve as a seasonal employee and be available for major fires and other disasters.


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