Republican legislators today held a press conference at the State Capitol in Denver to discuss bills they are sponsoring this session aimed at combating wildfires in Colorado. Colorado is at risk every season for devastating fires that destroy property, forests, natural resources, and lives.
Republicans are dedicated to providing robust solutions to wildfire threats and Senator Steve King (R-Grand Junction) discussed one of the strongest options available to the State of Colorado at today’s press conference.
The legislation sponsored by Sen. King will require Colorado to acquire four C-130’s and lease three Type I helicopters for the 2014 fire season. If successful, the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps would soon start converting Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft into modular firefighting aircraft in an effort to protect Colorado citizens, homes, and watersheds.
"The Colorado Firefighting Air Corps public-private partnership will give our state an economic boost and grant Colorado autonomy in combating the severe wildfires that jeopardize the lives, property, and drinking water of Coloradans,” Sen. King said.
Senator King also highlighted how wildfires can dramatically impact the quality of drinking water if they occur near water sources. Wildfires can deposit a wide array of carcinogens into drinking water and since Colorado provides water to five states and to Mexico, the consequences of a wildfire in Colorado extend far beyond our borders.
Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) also discussed her bills to aid the survivors of a wildland firefighter killed in the line of duty and improve the radio communication structure for wildland firefighters at today’s press conference.
SB 47, sponsored by Sen. Roberts, would direct the Division of Fire Prevention and Control to make a lump-sum payment of $10,000 to the survivors of a seasonal wildland firefighter employed by the state or a local government who was killed in the line of duty.
“Fighting wildfires is a dangerous job and the families of the heroes who battle wildfires in Colorado deserve the highest level of support from the state,” said Sen. Roberts. “There is nothing in this world that can replace the loss of a loved one, but at the very least, we should do our best to comfort the families they have left behind. We also have an obligation to provide our firefighters with the best communication systems possible so that we avoid preventable tragedies. I believe these bills accomplish those goals and look forward to working with my colleagues to pass them out of the Senate.”
Senator Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs) presented the details of his bill, SB 77, to allow concurrent jurisdiction with United States Forest Service land and Bureau of Land Management land.
“Its common sense to allow local officials and firefighters access to federal land when our citizens and our natural resources are in danger,” said Sen. Lambert. “The federal government should be looking for ways to mitigate damage on its own land and damage to our communities here in Colorado. Since there has been a reduction by the federal government in the resources they’ve allocated to manage and protect forests within the state, action is required by our state and this bill helps remedy the current problem.”
Representative Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) represented House Republicans at today’s press conference and detailed a House Concurrent Resolution he is proposing that would provide block grants to counties to help them purchase air time for firefighting aircraft during fire season and create a wildfire response and disaster recovery fund through a vote of the people.
"Firefighters can't put out every wildfire before lives and homes are threatened, but they must have the resources needed to extinguish the fires they can before lives and homes are lost," said Rep. McNulty. "I encourage the governor to support the establishment of a wildfire and disaster response emergency fund and commit to maintaining airplanes and helicopters to fight wildfires in Colorado. With these resources available, our state can respond quickly to put out wildfires, giving us the best opportunity to spare communities from destruction."
Douglas County Commissioner Roger Partridge and Douglas County Sheriff David Weaver also attended today’s press conference and supported the initiatives being proposed by Republican legislators.