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A Chinook helicopter is one of several helicopters dropping water on the Decker Fire. Photo by Jan Wondra.

Fenberg and McCluskie Bipartisan Bill to Invest in Essential Wildfire Fighting Aircraft 

On Friday, Governor Jared Polis signed Senate President Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder), and Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie’s (D-Dillon), bipartisan bill to require the State Treasurer to finance the purchase of a Firehawk helicopter for wildfire fighting efforts. Firehawk helicopters are considered the most technologically advanced firefighting aircraft available.

The bill was cosponsored by House Minority Leader Mike Lynch (R-Wellington), and Senator Perry Will (R-New Castle). SB23-161 allows Colorado to purchase a second Firehawk helicopter, ensuring the Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) has at least one Firehawk available for rapid response at all times.

“We no longer have wildfire seasons, we have wildfire years, which is why we are proactively investing in advanced wildfire fighting equipment like the Firehawk to keep our communities safe,” said Fenberg. “Firehawk helicopters are state-of-the-art and built for longevity, making this a smart investment for Colorado’s future. This will help ensure we are able to aggressively respond to and mitigate wildfires with greater speed and increased capacity, and will help us better protect homes, people, and property against increasingly dangerous wildfires.”

Configured by United Rotorcraft, the Firehawk has a newly designed 1,000-gallon water tank attached to the belly of the aircraft. It has an extended landing gear to accommodate the tank; a retractable snorkel than can refill the tank in less than one minute; and a rescue hoist. The Firehawk helicopter will allow fire crews to attack wildfires, transport up to 12 ground firefighters to the fire line, and rescue firefighters and civilians when in need.

“When combatting a wildfire, every minute counts for our first responders and our communities,” said McCluskie. “We’re continually working to improve the state’s wildfire response time by investing in the latest technology to protect our homes, businesses and neighborhoods. By providing the funding to purchase a second Firehawk helicopter, we are helping ensure that our firefighters can combat and contain wildfires in difficult terrain and keep our communities safe.”

In 2021, Fenberg and McCluskie championed legislation to purchase Colorado’s first Firehawk helicopter, which will join Colorado’s fleet of firefighting aircraft later this year.