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Colorado Closer To Getting Own Firefighting Fleet

DENVER (CBS4)- Colorado is one step closer to getting its own firefighting fleet just in time for wildfire season. A bill to establish the aerial fleet passed the state Senate.

The measure passed through the full Senate without objection. Nearly $20 million has already been set aside to pay for the aerial firefighting force.

air tanker slurry
An air tanker demonstration at Centennial Airport(credit: CBS)

There have been several devastating fires in Colorado over the past two summers, including the Black Forest Fire, considered the state's most destructive.

Sen. Steve King believes the worst is yet to come.

"We have seen very bad wildfires in Colorado. We've not seen a catastrophic wildfire in Colorado, said King, a Republican representing Grand Junction. "The issue hasn't changed. We're one lightning strike from a catastrophic fire that could change our watershed for generations to come."

The aerial firefighting fleet would include four planes- two of them leased, two owned by the state- four leased helicopters and money for a center to study high-tech firefighting like night vision goggles. The bill also allows Colorado to lease additional aerial resources.

The support is bipartisan, both Democrats and Republicans agree that Colorado needs help.

"I think anyone with a relationship to our forest has a responsibility," said Rep. Mike McLachlan, a Democrat representing Durango.

Even though there are only eight days left in the legislative session, the bill faces little to no opposition.

"The number one thing we worry about is having a quick response and the ability to locate fires," said McLachlan.

The bill could be on Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk by Thursday.

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