Sen. Gardner talks fire mitigation with local officials
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner was in Grand County earlier this week to hold a meeting with local officials from the county as well as several towns to discuss potential points of interaction and cooperation.
Gardner held a roundtable discussion Monday morning in the Grand Lake Community House with all three Grand County Commissioners as well as representatives of the communities of Grand Lake and Winter Park. During the roughly hour-long discussion, Gardner heard feedback, requests and complaints regarding a host of issues connected to the federal government. The senator also discussed a new bill he and other members of the Colorado Congressional delegation recently introduced that would make it a federal felony to fly an unauthorized drone over a wildfire.
County commissioners highlighted water rights and other water related issues and sought support from Gardner to help put pressure on the Bureau of Reclamation regarding funding for water projects to address impacts from stream diversions out of Grand County.
The group also discussed healthcare and the state’s health insurance regions. Gardner highlighted legislation recently introduced to address caps on residency programs at rural hospitals, which Gardner said he believed would help bring more doctors to rural areas on Colorado’s western slope.
Gardner explained his trip to Grand Lake on Monday, part of a larger tour of other communities in north central Colorado, was meant in part to recognize the “proactive work done on (fire) mitigation issues and defensible space.”
“It helped a lot with fighting that fire,” Gardner said. “You were able to get a handle on it. The example has been set here that we should talk about statewide and nationwide.”
The new bill introduced by Gardner along with Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Scott Tipton is called the Securing Airspace For Emergency Responders (SAFER) Act. The legislation, which has been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate, would make it a felony to fly an unauthorized drone over a wildfire.
Thursday evening, as firefighters were in the thick of battling the Golf Course blaze and as other first responders were busy evacuating residents from the area, a private unauthorized drone was flown over burn area. The drone’s presence forced the shut down of airspace above the fire temporarily and prevented at least one airdrop from occurring at a critical time in the suppression process.
“I’ve heard firsthand from the men and women fighting fires in Colorado about he problems and risks they encounter with unauthorized drones flying over wildfires,” Gardner stated. “It puts the lives of firefighting personnel at risk and enhances the threat to public safety by causing the grounding of aerial firefighting assets because the airspace over a fire isn’t secure. We need to put a stop to this and the SAFER Act can help do that by making it a federal felony to fly unauthorized drones over wildfires.”
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