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Governor John Hickenlooper announced new initiatives yesterday to try and make Colorado better prepared for wildfires. State officials say they’re also planning for a drought this summer and a potentially bad fire season. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.
Meanwhile, Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall is urging the US Forest Service to accelerate their acquisition of eight new firefighting air tankers ahead of this year’s wildfire season. Udall says the new planes have been tied up in red tape.
But Jennifer Jones, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service, says despite the contract delays for the new planes, there are already enough air tankers on hand for the upcoming wildfire season.
“We are expecting to have up to 25 large air tankers available for fire suppression nationwide. That would include up to 9 large air tankers on exclusive use contracts, up to 8 CV 580’s through agreements with the Canadian interagency forest fire center, and 8 military C130’s equipped with modular airborne firefighting systems.”
Jones says air tankers only play a role in the national firefighting effort and that it’s the firefighters on the ground who put out wildfires.
Three Chinook helicopters have been delivered to Fort Carson for a new combat aviation brigade. The Army says the CH-47D Chinooks were transferred from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Riley, Kansas, this week. Fort Carson will be the home of the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, which will have up to 2,700 soldiers and 113 helicopters. Activation of the unit is expected in April.