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Colorado Lawmaker Asking California For Help With Wildfire Air Support

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BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) – A Colorado lawmaker will travel to California next Monday to ask for help with air support while fighting wildfires.

The federal government is hoping to have 17 heavy air tankers under contract but right now it only has 10 to cover the entire country.

With 23 air tankers in its fleet, California Fire says it’s able to respond within 20 minutes to any fire in the state. They say 95 percent of those fires are contained to 10 acres or less.

A Colorado lawmaker wants California to lend the state some of that fire power.

“It is just one more option for us to be able to deal with catastrophic wildfires in our watersheds,” said Sen. Steve King.

According to King, California has a vested interest in helping Colorado since nearly 30 percent of its water comes from Colorado. He also said that California invests $500,000 in cloud seeding in Colorado to augment that water.

“I think they will see the logic in releasing one or 10 of their 23 air tankers to come help us should we have a Western Slope catastrophic fire in a watershed,” said King.

However, California Fire feels it’s not practical, saying it would take up to four hours to get a taker to Colorado and it has none to spare. They have had 730 wildfires already this year, triple the average.

Whether California helps or not, King says Colorado can no longer count on the federal government to be of assistance.

King is introducing a bill authorizing the state to lease three Type 1 helicopters.

“This is long overdue. We need to protect our own water, we need to be proactive in doing that,” said King.

The cost to lease the helicopters could be up to $12 million and a decision will depend, in part, on the Colorado Division of Fire Safety. It conducted a comprehensive study of Colorado’s firefighting priorities and the results are due out April 1. Those numbers will likely influence any funding decisions.

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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