Gov. Polis, President Fenberg, Congressman Neguse, Senator Bennet, State & Local Officials  Discuss Climate Preparedness, Adaptation and Wildfire Response and Recovery

Friday, April 22, 2022

DENVER - As wildfires continue to occur across Colorado and fire season becomes a year round occurrence, Governor Polis, Senate President Steve Fenberg, Congressman Joe Neguse state and local officials discussed ongoing and new efforts to prepare for and respond to wildfires. There is no longer a fire season and in the last two years, Colorado has experienced the four largest and most devastating wildfires in state history.

“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. I thank President Fenberg for his leadership to help protect our economy, our homes and communities from the threat of wildfires,” said Gov. Polis.

“Colorado could very well be headed towards the worst wildfire season in the state’s history. We need to take action, which is why we are providing immediate support to communities rebuilding and recovering from wildfires, improving our ability to respond to the types of catastrophic wildfires we’ve seen in recent years, preparing for future disasters that may be just around the corner,” said Senate President Steve Fenberg. “With the wildfire policies we’re passing this year, we’re more prepared than ever before to support Coloradans’ recovery and rebuilding following disasters.”

This week alone, Colorado has experienced wildfires in Monte Vista, near Longmont, the Duck Pond Fire between Gypsum and Dotsero, the Fort Lyon Fire, and the Verdemont fire in Custer County.  Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera, Congressman Joe Neguse, Rep. Judy Amabile, Mayor of Louisville Ashley Stolzmann, Mayor of Superior Clint Folsom, Tim Howard - Superior Board of Trustees, Marta Loachamin, Boulder County Commissioner, Tatiana Hernandez - CEO Boulder Community Foundation, Senator Tammy Story, Senator Pete Lee, Rep. Marc Snyder, Rep. Donald Valdez and other officials and local leaders joined today’s announcement.  

The legislation sponsored by President Fenberg highlighted today also provides critical relief for individuals and communities impacted by devastating fires, like the Marshall Fire, while responsibly investing $15 million to give Colorado communities and first responders more tools to fight these fires in the immediate future, helping prevent small flames from becoming destructive wildfires. 

This dedicated funding would support increased aerial response capabilities, including the extension of our contract on the Large Air Tanker during peak fire season, as well as adding a second Large Air Tanker. It would also support the addition of two Type 1 helicopters, which are the largest and fastest flying helicopters used to respond to wildland fires and can be used to carry hundreds of gallons of water or flame retardant.

With this funding, Colorado would also be able to invest in an improved dispatch system which would allow localities and the state to work together to get resources out to fires and firefighters more quickly. 

The bill would establish the Office of Climate Preparedness, dedicating focused attention and coordination across state government, on the state’s climate adaptation and disaster recovery needs. The office will  add  needed capacity to support recovery efforts from natural disasters and will lead the development of a statewide comprehensive climate preparedness roadmap.  It would also implement the recommendation of the Colorado Fire Commission to coordinate year-round resource mobilization and dispatching. 

Congressman Joe Neguse joined the group to discuss his efforts in Congress to take climate action and prepare for wildfires. Today, Congressman Neguse and Senator Bennet issued a letter to U.S House and Senate Appropriations leadership urging Congress to follow Colorado’s lead and prioritize climate preparedness and mitigation for Fiscal Year 2023 submissions. 

“From the Cameron Peak, East Troublesome and Marshall Fires, to the historic floods in 2013, Colorado has been an epicenter for climate-fueled natural disasters. We must act decisively to combat the climate crisis and prepare our state for future disasters. The state’s new initiative to create an office of climate preparedness and increase investments in climate adaptation are critically important, and I’m proud to lead efforts to support both at the Federal level,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “Today, Senator Bennet and I are partnering with Governor Polis and state legislative leaders to advance this initiative on the federal level through our effort to ensure House and Senate appropriators adopt a national strategy of climate preparedness and prioritize state and local mitigation and adaptation funding as part of the FY 2023 budget.”

Congressman Neguse continued, “Working with my colleagues in Congress, I was glad to see an increase in the Federal cost share of FEMA assistance programs for the Marshall Fire. I’m grateful to the Governor and state legislative leaders for their efforts to utilize those cost-savings by appropriating additional relief for the victims of the Marshall Fire and increasing investments in our fire-fighting capabilities and equipment as Colorado grapples with historic wildfires and dangerous conditions on the ground.”

Stan Hilkey, Executive Director Colorado Dept. of Public Safety and former county sheriff in western Colorado shared his experience adding:  “In nearly 40 years working in public safety, I’ve witnessed a striking change in how wildfires affect our state. The additional $15 million in fire resources announced today will augment our existing resources. With that additional funding, we endeavor to expand the time on existing contract aircraft, add additional Large Air Tanker aircraft and also add more contract helicopters, keeping in mind we are competing for resources with other states.” 

“I applaud the leadership for looking at this problem, supporting local agencies to keep boots on the ground. It will save lives and property, it won’t prevent every fire and these resources will enhance our capability,” Michael Morgan, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control Director added and discussed the state’s partnership with local governments and robust resources Colorado is bringing to the fight against wildfires in our state.