As the High Park Fire continues to spread across Larimer County, Mark Udall vowed to continue to fight for adequate resources to contain fires and mitigate the bark beetle epidemic that provides fuel for the fires breaking out across Colorado. Udall urges President Barack Obama's quick signature to allow the U.S. Forest Service to sign contracts for at least seven more large air tankers, which have been instrumental in fighting the High Park Fire and other fires around the country. The bill passed the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives last week.
"I am thankful Congress passed this bill to allow the U.S. Forest Service to get more air tankers, which are sorely needed as devastating fires break out across our state and the country. I urge the President to sign this into law without delay," Udall said. "In closely watching the High Park Fire - the images of flames, the overwhelming smoke and ash clouds - I share everyone's concerns for the 2,600 displaced families and the devastation this fire could bring to our Northern Colorado communities. This is a beautiful area, but it has been severely impacted by the expansion of the bark beetle epidemic in the past two to three years. My thoughts go to all the firefighters - in the air and on the ground - to keep them safe and effective, and I call on all residents to please evacuate immediately if you are called to do so"
"This fire is just one of several burning across the parched Western states right now, including several others on northern and southwestern Colorado. The U.S. Forest Service carefully plans so that it can manage several events at one time, but I will be keeping a close watch to make sure this fire continues to get the resources that it needs. The fire is currently zero percent contained, which is a reflection of the extreme weather and dry ground conditions and not a lack of firefighting effort or resources," Udall continued. "The federal government is focusing its efforts on this fire, sending a Type 1 response team, air support and ground crews. I have been in contact with the fire responders and Governor Hickenlooper's office, and learned that every request from the firefighting effort has been fulfilled. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also has released funds to cover the cost of the fire-suppression efforts."
Last week Udall called on the House to pass the bill to contract more air tankers as soon as possible, following up on letters sent and hearings held on the issue. Udall has been a vocal fighter for resources and policy change so that federal, state and local agencies can fight the bark beetle epidemic - the High Park Fire is an example of why this work is so critical.
He will introduce and fight to pass several amendments to the Farm Bill that support this work and to mitigate the role of beetle-killed trees in providing fuel for fire conditions in Colorado. This evening, Udall will head to the Senate floor to discuss the how good stewardship practices in the forestry portion of the Farm Bill have an impact on the bark beetle epidemic and why treatment of the affected areas must remain a priority to reduce fire risk.