GLENWOOD SPRINGS, CO – This week, bipartisan members of the Wildfire Matters Review Committee (WMRC) participated in a series of site visits throughout the Western Slope to learn more about Colorado’s wildfire response and prevention resources and hear directly from Coloradans impacted by recent destructive wildfires.
"I am proud to host the Wildfire Matters Interim Committee in my beautiful district," said Chair of WMRC, Rep. Elizabeth Velasco, D-Glenwood Springs. "On the Western Slope, we have experienced catastrophic fires which are only worsening as a result of climate change. We no longer have fire seasons, but fire years. We must be proactive in the face of a changing climate. There are many lessons learned and we have made progress in fire resiliency and emergency response, however there is more work to do."
"Because of climate change, extreme wildfires are occurring more frequently, so we must continue working to protect our homes and businesses and create more resilient communities,” said Vice Chair of WMRC, Senator Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County. “A fire anywhere in Colorado affects the water we all drink, the air we all breathe, and the economy and recreational opportunities that enrich our lives. It's critical for us to hear from experts and community members who work and live in areas most likely to be directly impacted. I look forward to taking what we’ve learned back to the Capitol, where it will help shape our wildfire policy.”
On Wednesday, WMRC committee members toured the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Hanging Lake Tunnel, a traffic command center equipped with a complete fire department for rapid response to fires in Glenwood Canyon. Following the tour of the command center, the committee visited El Jebel Mobile Home Park, a community threatened during the 2018 Lake Christine Fire, to learn about effective wildfire mitigation efforts. Finally, the committee met with members of the Glenwood Springs community to discuss recent wildfire fighting responses and identify gaps in resources and services.
Today, the committee continued their tour with an EcoFlight tour of burn scars from the Grizzly Creek, Lake Christine, and Coal Seam wildfires. The two-day trip concluded with a tour of the Center of Excellence for Advanced Technology Aerial Firefighting, a center established by SB14-164 and charged with driving technological advancements that improve firefighting practices and ensuring the successful implementation of Colorado's aerial firefighting fleet.
This year, members of WMRC sponsored legislation to establish a statewide wildfire resiliency code board to help communities living in the wildland-urban interface defend homes and property from catastrophic wildfires, create a fire investigation fund to help investigate the causes and origins of fires and wildfires, and improve Colorado’s forestry workforce by directing the Colorado State Forest Service to develop educational materials on career opportunities in the industry and create a workforce development program in the State Forest Service.