Fri June 14, 2013
Update: Utah National Guard mission to fight Colo. wildfires canceled
A Utah National Guard official confirmed Friday afternoon that the mission to deploy helicopters and personnel to help fight wildfires in Colorado has been canceled.
Capt. Chris Foote says the mission was called for when Colorado activated an agreement between the states to share resources.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Gary Herbert's office did not immediately have details about the change in plans.
Herbert's office originally told reports it was sending units from the Utah National Guard to help fight raging wildfires in Colorado.
"It's clear that Colorado is in a state of emergency," said Herbert's chief of staff and spokeswoman, Ally Isom. "They've lost so many hundreds of homes and thousands more are in jeopardy. And thousands of families have been displaced; so it's certainly a crisis, and the governor feels it's the right thing to do to help our neighbors out."
The current fires in Colorado are considered the worst in the state’s history, with more than 350 homes lost, two people killed and more than 39,000 residents forced to evacuate.
On Wednesday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper declared disaster emergencies for three fires - the largest being the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs. Hickenlooper thanked Herbert for Utah’s support in a phone call Friday morning. Isom says the interstate agreements are a good idea for neighboring states.
"It's very common, it's essential even," she said, "that we have these cooperative state-to-state emergency management compacts. They allow us to handle natural disasters and emergencies with additional resources and leverage the limited resources we have. These are resources we don't need year-round, so it makes a lot of sense for states to cooperate and help one another out."
Isom reminded Utah residents to use common sense and extra caution outdoors as the state’s own fire season has begun.
“We also want to make sure Utah has its resources ready as we're entering our own fire season right now," she added. "We've been assured by the National Guard that we have sufficient resources that will remain in state, and we have the same agreement with our surrounding states if something were to happen in the state of Utah."
Herbert on Friday urged Utahns to be careful while target shooting, recreating outdoors and to keep hot vehicles away from brush and dry grass. For Utah Public Radio I'm Matt Jensen.
See the official press statement here: