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State Lawmakers Plan To Build Colorado’s Own Firefighting Fleet

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CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd demonstrates ads on the tails of air tankers (credit: CBS4)

CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd demonstrates ads on the tails of air tankers (credit: CBS4)

GALLERIES: COLORADO'S WORST WILDFIRES

DENVER (CBS4)- Lawmakers in Colorado don’t want to rely on the federal government to provide a firefighting fleet from the air. They want the state to have their own resources when it comes to fighting wildfires.

The firefighting planes used to battle wildfires are an aging fleet, they are from the World War II era and there are only nine of them left.

State Senators Steve King and Cheri Jahn believe Colorado can take matters into its own hands.

“We’re prepared to be told no when we really need them,” said King, a Republican representing Grand Junction.

They sponsored a bill that would create an aerial firefighting fleet as early as this summer, just in time for Colorado’s fire season.

“So it’s not a matter of if, it is a matter of when,” said Jahn, a Democrat representing Wheat Ridge.

In a perfect world the state lawmakers would like to have three air tankers, three smaller planes and three helicopters.

The fleet would be paid for by the state and private industry. Those investors could advertise on the side or tails of the planes.

The long term goal is to build not only a fleet but a high-tech firefighting industry that could be used throughout the West.

“I mean we’re talking about an era of unmanned aircraft surveillance capacity, space, laser targeting, GPS coordinates,” said Former National Aviation Director Tony Kern.

Leaders from both parties in the Senate say they are on board with the plan.

“We’re going to work in a bi-partisan way to get this up off the ground because fire season started 10 days ago,” said state Senate President John Morse, a Democrat.

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