Gov. authorizes $2M for fighting wildfires |

Gov. authorizes $2M for fighting wildfires

CENTENNIAL ” Gov. Bill Owens warned that the state could face a tough wildfire season and authorized $2 million Wednesday to help wildland crews across the state.

“Now the warning signs are very clear: This could be a very difficult spring and summer in the state of Colorado,” Owens said, but added that the state is better prepared.

Owens said the state’s 10 wildland fire engines and three leased single-engine air tankers will be moved around the state depending on where fire danger is highest. The Colorado National Guard also is prepared to use helicopters to help civilian firefighters.

“Last year, we got to 98 percent of fires before they got to 100 acres,” he said during a news conference at Centennial Airport, where a single-engine air tanker, a fire engine and two National Guard helicopters were displayed outside a hangar.

State and federal fire managers now respond to new blazes with as many firefighters, engines, helicopters and other equipment as the have to stop them from expanding.

As in previous years, the Department of Corrections has several crews of inmates trained to fight wildfires, and each was working Wednesday, Owens said. Last year, the inmate crews spent 56 days fighting 17 fires, he said.

In 2005, fires burned 14,000 acres around the state, Owens said. So far this year, about 70 fires have already burned 44,000 acres, according to the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center.

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