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By Andi Bourne
Pathfinder 

Trenton Johnson Memorial Highway bill headed to Governor's desk

 


HELENA – Senate Bill 260 was transmitted to Governor Steve Bullock for signature March 26. Sponsored by Senator Sue Malek (D) - SD46, SB 260 it establishes an eight-mile stretch of Highway 83 through Seeley Lake as the Trenton Johnson Memorial Highway.

Johnson was a 2016 graduate of Hellgate High School, scholar, member of Hellgate’s four-time state champion lacrosse team, sophomore at Montana State University and first year firefighter with Grayback Forestry. He lost his life July 19, 2017 when he was working with the initial attack crew fighting the Florence Fire near Seeley Lake and was struck by a 70-foot tree snag.

“My goal was to honor our amazing firefighters, particularly Trenton Johnson, who risked and lost his life and the sacrifice of his family. I can only imagine their sorrow and was certainly thinking of them and my own son as I read the resolution,” wrote bill sponsor Malek.

SB 260 was transmitted to the House Transportation Committee after passing the Senate 47-3 Feb. 27. The House Transportation committee passed the bill with an Executive Action 14-0.

Once on the House Floor, Rep. Derek Harvey (D) HD 74 carried the bill. At SB 260’s second reading he asked representatives to support it and said, “This Montana hero was doing the job we asked of him to protect our state and he lost his life doing so.”

Harvey presented members of the House with facts about the Rice Ridge fire, a fire started a week later in the same area as the Florence Fire and grew to 160,000 acres. He hoped it would help the House Chamber understand how vital initial attack is to keep fires small, “because you just never know what will happen.”

Harvey said that the stretch of Highway 83 from mile marker 14 to 22 is fitting to honor Johnson because he spent summers at Elbow Lake with his family.

“This is a just tribute for his sacrifice to our state and the least we can do for his family and friends,” said Harvey.

Mike Hopkins (R) HD 92 commented that the 2017 fire season was severe for the area he represents. And not only had the state asked Johnson and his crew to initial attack the Florence Fire, but it was where he wanted to be and he loved being a fire fighter.

“He put himself and his life in danger to help other people and to try and save land, save wildlife and put other people’s property and livelihood ahead of his own personal safety,” said Hopkins. “I urge you to vote yes on SB 260.”

The bill passed 91-9 on the House floor during the second reading and 90-9 on the third reading.

Governor Steve Bullock is scheduled to sign the bill April 3 at 11:30 a.m. Once signed, it will be effective immediately. The Department of Transportation will install signs marking the stretch of memorial highway. The memorial highway will also be included on the next publication of the state highway map.

 

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