Ritter Warns of Potentially Damaging Fire Season

All that snow we got this winter doesn’t seem to have allayed fears of a bad fire season. Gov. Bill Ritter says, “There are abundant fuels and predicted weather that could make for a very active fire season.”

Ritter received briefings today from several state and federal agencies about the state’s readiness for the upcoming fire season. Ritter said he was grateful that the winter and spring moisture had limited fire activity so far in 2007“At this time last year we had already experienced one large fire and many smaller ones that burned three times the acreage burned in all of 2005,” Ritter said in a release. “The snow and rain that we experienced this past winter and in early April have delayed the onset of fire season.”

Yesterday the Colorado congressional delegation called for the restoration of  $4.3 million to the U.S. Forest Service budget for fire management. The delegation said that not enough is being done at the federal level.

At his annual fire briefing, Ritter reviewed the state fire plan. The state has $3.25 million, whith which it will hire three single engine air tankers to deliver “critical first strikes” to suppress fires around the state. The state also has 10 fire engines positioned in the critical wildland-urban interface, the area near forested lands in which homes have been built.

“Positioning our resources in the most critical areas has been a highly successful strategy in recent years,” Ritter said. “The state Forest Service reports that 99 percent of the wildfires last year were contained at less than 100 acres through swift response by local fire departments and use of state resources.”

In 2006, 3,294 fires burned 201,809 non-federal acres, almost 1,200 fires more than in 2005

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Dan Whipple

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