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State Senator Holds Air Tanker Demo To Promote Firefighting Fleet Bill

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DENVER (CB4) – Some state lawmakers believe Colorado should not have to wait for federal help when it comes to putting out state wildfires, and now they are working on a plan to bring an aerial firefighting fleet to the state.

According to some lawmakers, the plan is ambitious but necessary.

The air tanker at Centennial Airport on Wednesday (credit: CBS)

The air tanker at Centennial Airport on Wednesday (credit: CBS)

On Wednesday Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, hosted a demonstration to show off a fire fighting air tanker that he says Colorado needs for this wildfire season.

King has introduced a bill in the Senate that calls on the state to buy four military planes and lease three helicopters to help put out wildfires that risk catastrophic damage. On Wednesday the public was able to see one of the planes in action as it sprayed water on an area of Centennial Airport in Englewood.

King says such a fleet is critical, not just for Colorado forests, but also the water supply that Colorado provides for 40 million people.

King admits the plan would be pricey — costing $7 million for each plane and then another $5 million to $12 million each year. But he says last year it cost $48 million to fight wildfires in Colorado.

While the bill has support from some Democrats like Senate President Morgan Carroll, Gov. John Hickenlooper does not support it. King says it’s about time the governor considers proactive methods for fighting fires.

“In the hope that our governor would join his fellow Democrats in being proactive in dealing with this issue,” King said. “My suggestion, with 42 days left in this legislative session, is that he needs to get in the game.”

A similar bill was passed last year but it had no funding. The hope this session is that it passes and has the appropriate funding it needs.

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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