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Gov. Hickenlooper Working To Bring Permanent Aerial Firefighting Fleet To West

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An air tanker drops slurry over the Black Forest Fire (credit: CBS4)

An air tanker drops slurry over the Black Forest Fire (credit: CBS4)

GALLERIES: COLORADO'S WORST WILDFIRES

DENVER (CBS4)- Colorado is one of the most active states for wildfires in the U.S. for the beginning of July. That has prompted Gov. John Hickenlooper to take action.

Hickenlooper said he’s making progress on securing a permanent aerial firefighting fleet for the West.

Although implementation could be years in the future, Hickenlooper said starting the conversation for basing an aerial fleet nearby could be the quickest way to save lives, homes and land.

“If we shared assets it might save money for all of us because we all have the same problem,” said Hickenlooper.

Devastating wildfires throughout Colorado and the West created the need for a more permanent solution. Hickenlooper is meeting with other western governors about sharing a regional aerial fleet.

“It would be deployed around the West so when you have a big fire we can concentrate those resources where they can be the most good,” said Hickenlooper.

Historically wildfire seasons starts in the Southwestern states of Arizona and New Mexico and work their way up through Colorado before reaching Montana.

Sharing a fleet throughout these states would put powerful resources on standby and save tax dollars.

“Ideally if we all had a regional set of assets, planes you could deploy them to the south at first then we wouldn’t have to have planes sitting on the ground. We could make sure the planes are being used consistently all through the summer,” said Hickenlooper.

He said the idea is far from reality but getting the conversation started is a good start.

According to the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center, Colorado has two air tankers in the state but they are scheduled to fight fires in the Southwest which leaves Colorado vulnerable without any large air tankers ready to go.

Wildfire Resources

- Visit CBSDenver.com’s Wildfire Resources section.

- Read recent Wildfire stories.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

- See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

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