Colorado bill would provide $15M in wildfire funds, establish Office of Climate Preparedness

·3 min read

As we head into what experts speculate may be one of the worst summers of wildfire Colorado has seen, if not the worst, Gov. Jared Polis and state fire officials provided insight Friday on how the state is preparing.

“We are vastly improving our year-round fire response, expanding our arsenal of world-class firefighting tools and continuing to activate every tool we have to help our communities prepare for and respond to the threat of wildfires and climate change,” Polis said in a press release.

In the last two years, Colorado has experienced the three largest wildfires in state history — the Cameron Peak Fire, the East Troublesome Fire and the Pine Gulch Fire — and just five months ago it saw the most destructive fire in state history, the Marshall Fire.

Just this week, Colorado has seen wildfires in Monte Vista, near Longmont, between Gypsum and Dotsero, in Custer County and northeast of Las Animas, according to state officials.

“Colorado could very well be headed towards the worst wildfire season in the state’s history. We need to take action,” said Senate President Steve Fenberg. With policies passing through the legislature this year, he said the state is working to provide immediate support to communities harmed by fires, improve response time and response quality, and prepare for future disasters.

Fenberg is supporting legislation that would invest $15 million in Colorado first responders and communities to help “prevent small flames from becoming destructive wildfires” by improving the state’s emergency dispatch system and adding a second air tanker and two high-quality helicopters to the state’s arsenal during peak fire season.

The bill would also create the Office of Climate Preparedness, which would give its full attention to climate adaptation and disaster recovery needs and create a roadmap to statewide climate preparedness.

In Larimer County: 'Extremely dangerous' fire conditions expected on Friday

Michael Morgan, director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, said at a press conference about wildfire preparedness that he appreciates the state leadership prioritizing fire safety and prevention.

“I know our risk is significant this year and people have to do their part,” he said. “We’re leaning in harder than we ever have been able to do to do a better job with unwanted fires, early detection, aggressive initial attack and supporting the boots on the ground.”

In addition to the steps the state is taking, Polis reminded people to pay attention to fire bans when they’re in effect, but he added people need to take fire threats seriously beyond just bans or outdoor activities.

“It’s about chains on tires, it’s about lawn equipment, it’s about barbecues, it’s about cigarettes,” he said. “All of these kinds of activities can and have caused human-caused fires here in Colorado so we want people to be fire-smart as they live their lives, not just as they’re camping.”

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Molly Bohannon covers education for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at mbohannon@coloradoan.com. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: 'Significant' wildfire risk in Colorado leads to a $15 million prevention bill