DENVER (CBS4) – President Obama is expected to sign a bill that will allow the U.S. Forest Service to increase its firefighting fleet by seven large tankers.
The president on Tuesday called Gov. John Hickenlooper to offer help on High Park Fire.
“I thanked him,” Hickenlooper told CBS4 after getting the call. “I think what the Forest Service has done and what FEMA has done — they’ve bent over backwards and it’s a model of how a county can coordinate with all their volunteer organizations and their work with the state. The state works with the county and the volunteers and now the federal government.”
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, pushed the bill through Congress and the entire Colorado delegation sent a letter to the president Monday urging him to sign it.
For Udall it’s a personal mission.
“I’ve long held that the Forest Service needs more air tankers and more airborne assets,” Udall said.
Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, says sending a message to the president helps Colorado get the resources it needs to fight the High Park Fire.
“The Forest Service is doing a great job,” Gardner said. “I believe they have the resources they need but we continue to make sure we’re competing effectively against other fires in the western United States that are also demanding resources.
“It’s incredible; the people who are putting in tireless, tireless hours to fight this thing. They are doing a great job but again, this is a 40,000 acre fire that’s burning in amazing ways.”
Tuesday morning there were at least 18 large wildfires burning in nine states, including two large wildfires in New Mexico.
The bill President Obama is expected to sign won’t help the battle against the High Park Fire but it will allow the Forest Service to be better prepared for future wildfires.
“When you fight a fire, it’s like going to war. You deploy people and machines and weapons to fight that fire,” Udall said.
Udall is also pressing for the Forest Service to be more proactive in preventing fires by thinning forests and educating homeowners. He points out the conditions in Colorado, from winds to the developing drought, put nature in control of the High Park Fire.
“Mother Nature bats last often. We’re just trying to keep the game going into the late innings, perhaps into extra innings,” Udall said. “There will be fires that are out of control. These are vast forests, they’ve been subject to pine beetle kill that’s legendary now, so to some extent Mother Nature is still in charge, but there are some things we can do to prevent fires and to fight fires when they happen.”
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Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story said that President Obama had already signed the bill, but he had not.