Continuing to Expand Wildfire Preparedness & Response: Governor Polis Takes Action to Support Volunteer Firefighters & Emergency First Responders
GOLDEN – This morning, at a fire station in Golden, Governor Polis signed an Executive Order helping Colorado’s state employees serve as volunteer firefighters and first responders. The Governor’s action directs all state agencies and departments to provide up to five days of additional paid leave for deployed volunteer firefighters and emergency responders. Gov. Polis was joined this morning by Stan Hilkey, Executive Director of the Department of Public Safety, Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources, Alan Fletcher, Chief of Fairmount Fire Rescue and members of Fairmount Fire Rescue.
“Climate change is increasing the frequency, severity, and intensity of forest fires in Colorado. Fire season has become a year-round occurrence. As such, we need to maximize all of the State’s resources to combat wildfires to protect lives, homes, and properties. Volunteer firefighters and first responders provide critical support to suppress forest and grassland fires and assist people during fire emergencies. As many as 70% of Colorado’s firefighters are volunteers,” the Governor’s Executive Order reads.
“To ensure we continue to encourage Coloradoans to engage in this critical volunteer work, it is important that employers, including the State of Colorado, support employees who volunteer and take time away from their employment to help with fire mitigation and suppression,” the Governor’s Executive Order continues.
The Governor’s action today supports volunteer firefighters and emergency responders to be able to continue to give their time and be ready when the call comes. More efficient response times save Coloradans money by reducing fire spread and property damage.
Governor Polis recently met with volunteer and full-time firefighters from across the state.
“This Executive Order will greatly benefit our Fire and EMS agencies in rural Colorado due to the lack of volunteers, and allowing us to have a couple more available for emergencies could be a difference in life and death for the patient as well as our staff and volunteers. Out here on the Eastern Plains, we rely on any resources we can get and having the extra manpower will allow for more resources with equipment and personnel. We appreciate the governor taking into consideration our needs out here in the more rural areas. I personally really appreciate the Governor’s quick reaction and resolution to this matter,” said Russ Watson, Kiowa County Fire Protection District Chief.
“As the Battalion Chief for the Ouray Volunteer Fire Department and a state employee, I am thrilled to see Governor Polis supporting our important work, especially as we face increased wildfire threats. I am proud of my service to the state both professionally and as a volunteer firefighter, and I’m excited to see this action from the Governor,” said Patrick Rondinelli, SW Regional Manager for the Department of Local Affairs and Battalion Chief for the Ouray Volunteer Fire Department.
The Governor’s action is the latest in a series of steps the Polis administration has taken to prepare for, prevent, and respond to wildfires. Last week in Evergreen, Governor Polis announced that the Colorado Strategic Wildfire Action Program will provide funding to support forest health and wildfire mitigation work to protect Colorado’s communities, critical infrastructure, and watersheds from future wildfires. This year Gov. Polis signed legislation into law to provide unprecedented support for wildfire victims and to establish an improved statewide dispatch program.
The Polis Administration has been recognized nationally as a leader in wildfire prevention and mitigation. Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Mike Morgan, Director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control were appointed to the federal Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission.
This June at the Evergreen Fire Station Gov. Polis signed a package of landmark bipartisan bills to prepare for and respond to wildfires including SB22-002 Resources For Volunteer Firefighters which was sponsored by State Representatives Lisa Cutter and Perry Will, State Senators Joann Ginal and Tammy Story.