Colo. Gov. Says State Prepared for Wildfire Season

May 2, 2005

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens said the state of Colorado is ready with aircraft, state fire trucks, innate fire crews and support from the Colorado National Guard to battle wildfires in forested areas this summer.

“Even an average season means some 2,000 fires will occur on our non-federal lands in Colorado. While the recent moisture may mean that the start of the fire season is delayed, we have to be ready for whatever conditions prevail during the hot summer months. We take the wildfire threat seriously and we are prepared,” Owens said.

Owens announced that he has signed an Executive Order allocating $3.3 million to fund various wildfire suppression efforts around the state. Resources include Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs), helicopters, inmate fire crews from the Department of Corrections and support from the Colorado National Guard.

The funds also will be used to pre-position 10 state fire engines in the areas considered to be the most vulnerable, the so-called “red zones” where there is the greatest threat of catastrophic fire.

“The strategy of pre-positioning our resources has been very successful,” Owens said. “Last year, Colorado experienced 1,826 fires with over 1,700 of those fires contained at under 10 acres, a success rate of 94 percent.”

The use of the state-contracted SEATs has also proven to be a successful strategy. The tankers are especially effective for early strikes against fires. Last year, the state tankers attacked 54 fires, with only two of them growing larger than 100 acres. Again this year, the state will have three tankers under contract.

The Executive Order noted that the $3.3 million “shall be used to implement the 2005 Initial Air Attack Plan that includes the contracting of Single Engine Air Tankers and when needed helicopters specifically equipped to fight wildfires…” The money primarily comes from the state’s Disaster Emergency Fund.

The announcement was made at the annual wildfire briefing for state and federal officials held at Centennial Airport.

Participants included State Forester Bill Wilcox and Regional U.S. Forester Rick Cables, as well as representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado National Guard, the state Division of Emergency Management and the Department of Natural Resources.

“Thousands of firefighters will be on the lines again this summer, working unselfishly to save lives and property,” Owens said. “We owe them a debt of thanks, but more importantly we owe it to them to be extremely cautious with fire again this summer.”

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