Firefighting Tankers-2 (copy)

The 302nd Airlift Wing based at Peterson Air Force Base ran firefighting missions in 2018 out of a temporary air tanker base at the Colorado Springs Airport. Using C-130 cargo planes, the unit carries retardant that is dropped ahead of flames to slow their advance. 

Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order Friday to boost the amount of state money available to local firefighters.

The state Wildfire Emergency Response Fund had a balance of $152,253, until the governor's order adds an additional $763,000.

The money comes out of the state's Disaster Emergency Fund.

The state also helps local jurisdictions by providing an aerial tanker or firefighting helicopter support, as well as the employment of hand crews to fight wildfires, the order notes.

"Colorado will use the funds for early detection and rapid initial attack actions to reduce the probability and impacts from large, extended wildfires," the executive order states.

The state, however, also needs a large air tanker "to adequately respond to wildfires," including containment and preservation of homes and communities. The tanker will be a priority in future uses of the disaster fund, the order notes.

Read the governor's executive order by clicking here.

The governor cited the strain COVID-19 has placed on local fire departments.

The state's first death from the virus was March 5, and it now exceeds 1,000. Polis declared a state disaster on March 11, and the president accepted the governor's request to make the entire state a major federal disaster area from the pandemic on March 28.

"COVID-19 has strained our first responders as they have mobilized to save lives," the executive order states. "As identified in the State’s 2020 Wildfire Preparedness Plan, local fire departments have reduced availability to provide response and assistance outside of their home jurisdiction, and firefighting resources from other states and federal agencies have limited capacity. COVID-19 creates challenges to maintaining the health of firefighters in fire camps and command posts, and poses a high risk of exposure among fire management personnel."

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