Gov. announces major changes in handling of controlled burns

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DENVER -- Governor John Hickenlooper Monday unveiled major changes in the way the state handles controlled burns and wildfires.

The need for changes was made tragically clear during the Lower North Fork Fire.

The state’s division of Emergency Management and the fire resources at CSU will be moving under the control of the State Department of Public Safety.

The Governor says, “We want to have it in one place with an agency that is used to dealing with situations where minutes matter.”

The Lower North Fork Fire revealed issues with prescribed burn protocols and with the state forest service’s ability to manage fire fighting efforts once the fire got out of control.

The Governor says this change will help improve that. “What we’re trying to do is address the structural issues surrounding how the State does prescribed burns.”

He adds, “We respond to other disasters through the Department of Public Safety, everything except fires.  Fires have their own separate chain of command. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Fire officials say this is something they have asked for since 1994, when 14 firefighters died battling the Storm King Mountain wildfire in western Colorado.

The Governor says legislators are putting together the necessary laws to implement this change.  He says next, the state will take a hard look at prescribed burn protocols and make changes there to do everything possible to prevent this from happening again.

Meanwhile, he is continuing the ban on prescribed burns on state land.

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