Colo. Gov. Directs Additional State Resources for Wildfire Mitigation; Money Goes for More Air Tankers, Helicopter

June 2, 2004

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has authorized additional state resources for fighting wildfires this summer.

The Governor released $1.3 million from the state’s Disaster Emergency Fund, allowing the state to contract for two additional single engine air tankers and a firefighting helicopter.

“As the drought continues, the wildfire potential is something we will have to confront aggressively all summer,” Owens said. “The decision by the U.S. Forest Service to ground federal air tankers because of serious safety concerns is understandable. It also places a greater responsibility on the states. We have the obligation to do all we can to provide the resources for our firefighters.”

The $1.3 million is on top of $1.1 million authorized by Owens in April for firefighting. With those funds, the state immediately contracted for three single engine air tankers that were placed on standby here in the state. The funds also are being used to preposition 10 state fire engines in areas where there is the greatest threat of catastrophic fire.

“Our strategy of prepositioning firefighting equipment has been very successful. Last year, 95 percent of the fires were controlled at less than ten acres,” Owens said. “The forecast is for a difficult fire season and the Picnic Rock fire in April supports those concerns. The additional air resources certainly will help compensate for the loss of the federal air tankers.”

Last summer, the three air tankers under contract to the state attacked 52 fires, with only four growing to any significance.

With the funds authorized last week, the state will be able to have five air tankers and a helicopter under contract for this summer.

In addition, National Guard helicopters will be available for early strikes against fires and the Guard will provide ground support as needed.

Three inmate firefighting crews from Buena Vista, Rifle and Canon City also will be available.

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