Guest Columns

KING: PREPARING FOR BATTLE WITH NATURE’S MOST POWERFUL FORCES

The Governor needs to fund C-FAC — or risk playing with fire in our tinder box state

GUEST COLUMNIST

One unattended campfire. One lightning strike. Or even darker and more sinister, one intentional terrorist or arsonist’s match strike. That is all it will take for a catastrophic wildfire to erupt in any part of our state’s four million acres of dead trees. A wildfire that will show no mercy and will not yield as it destroys lives, homes and our environment. The fear of fires in Colorado’s most precious water sheds alone should sound alarm bells to the highest reaches of state and federal government.

How can we stop it? I believe the solution lies in funding the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps (C-FAC). I know on the Front Range elected officials and bureaucrats continue to say that we can rely on the federal government to assist us if one breaks out.

When I hear this I want to shout “wake up!” The paralysis by analysis strangling Washington right now makes every issue a political football thrown back and forth from one party to the other. We should not trust our lives, homes and environment to political theater.

Let’s remember that this is the same government that over the last decade allowed the federal wildfire air fleet to “die on the vine” from 44 air tankers to nine. Yes, nine air tankers for the entire United States. So when fires break out across the nation, (and they will) we will be on our own.

Colorado’s wildfire season is fast approaching. This is why the legislature must fund the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps (C-FAC) immediately.

Governor Hickenlooper and the Democrats need to show leadership on this issue. We must encourage them to find the courage of their convictions and prepare for the coming battle with one of nature’s most powerful forces.

The General Assembly just passed a $21 billion budget and yet we cannot find $20 million for a critical public health and safety issue? Last year alone the state suffered six fatalities, lost 647 homes, and incurred $48.1 million in fire suppression costs.

Colorado must be able to take care of itself, not if, but when a wildfire rages through its dead forests. Our choice is clear: this legislative session can be our legacy or our liability. I hope my colleagues and the Governor choose wisely.

Sen. Steve King is the ranking Republican member on the Senate Transportation Committee. He represents Senate District 7 in Mesa County.