Gov. John Hickenlooper is seeking more federal disaster aid for Colorado communities hurt by wildfires, saying they won’t be able to fully recover without it.
In late June, President Barack Obama declared a disaster in Colorado, making federal funds available to help pay for emergency protection for the High Park Fire in northern Colorado and the Waldo Canyon Fire in the Colorado Springs area. The fires destroyed more than 600 homes, making them the most destructive wildfires in state history.
In a letter released Wednesday, Hickenlooper asked Obama to also expand the disaster declaration to include the 52,000-acre Last Chance Fire in Washington County and the Woodland Heights Fire in Larimer County, both of which burned during the High Park Fire.
He also asked that more aid be made available, saying the June declaration didn’t account for impacts on roads, power lines, reservoirs and other infrastructure. The High Park Fire damaged more than 400 power poles and 10 miles of electric line that must be replaced, and the Waldo Canyon Fire destroyed more than $2 million in public infrastructure within hours, Hickenlooper said.
Preliminary damage assessments from the four fires have found an estimated $6.97 million in recovery work that needs to be done.
This year, the state has spent about $42.6 million on fire suppression alone, including 19 fires from June 9 to July 11, Hickenlooper said.
“The statewide barrage of fires within such a short time period exceeded the state and local governments’ resources, ability to respond, and capability to recover,” Hickenlooper’s letter said.
Colorado also has dealt with flooding and mudslides around burned areas, plus tornadoes this summer.