MONTROSE — Gov. Bill Ritter joined hundreds of volunteer wildland firefighters at a training academy in Montrose this evening, thanking them for their service and signing three pieces of firefighter-related legislation into law.
“Colorado, and indeed the nation, is indebted to you for your dedication to protecting people, property, and natural resources,” Gov. Ritter said at the Colorado Wildland Fire and Incident Management Academy. “No one knows better than you the tragedy of the loss of a fellow firefighter, or the hollow feeling in your gut when a fire jumps your control line and threatens communities. The bills I’m signing here today will support your efforts as you plan, prepare and respond to wildfires.”
“I am proud of the significant work we did this session to protect Colorado from the devastating effects of forest fires,” said Sen. Dan Gibbs, a type II Wildland Firefighter. “Not only was I able to travel to Washington D.C. to fight for federal support for Colorado’s wildfire projects, but I was also able to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle to make sure we are prepared when the next wildfire hits. These bills continue to preserve our safety, environment, and quality of life in Colorado, particularly for the one million Coloradans who live in forested areas.”
Senate Bill 13, sponsored by Sen. Dan Gibbs and Rep. Claire Levy, recognizes the value that volunteer firefighters provide as first responders, and protects them from civil liability when they are making decisions under stressful, life-threatening conditions.
Senate Bill 21, sponsored by Sens. Gibbs and Mike Kopp and Reps. Christine Scanlan and Levy, provides volunteer firefighters with free tuition, up to three credits per year, at community colleges.
House Bill 1041, sponsored by Rep. Cheri Gerou and Sen. Gibbs, allows fire protection districts to charge a fee for emergency rescue, extraction and other safety services.
Earlier today, Gov. Ritter signed the omnibus Healthy Forests/Vibrant Communities Act of 2009, also sponsored by Rep. Scanlan and Sen. Gibbs. The measure will help communities prevent wildfires, provide resources for planning and forest-maintenance efforts, and encourage business opportunities for forest-product entrepreneurs. In April, Gov. Ritter signed two other bills that support community wildfire protection plans and clarify roles and responsibilities of the various local, county, and state agencies involved in wildfire prevention and protection.