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Gardner addresses 416 Fire on the U.S. Senate floor

Author: Joey Bunch - June 20, 2018 - Updated: June 20, 2018

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U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner talked about Southwest Colorado’s 416 Fire on the chamber floor Tuesday morning, proud of the way the government and fire crews are working together.

The 34,000-acre fire has been burning since June 1.

The Durango Herald reported Tuesday that the blaze was thought to be at 35 percent containment at the end of the day Monday. More than 1,000 firefighters were working on the 416 Fire and the smaller nearby 3,715-acre Burro Fire, together costing $18.6 million as of Monday.

Gardner spoke of the things Congress has done to help and the places where more is needed.

He credited the fire crews battling several blazes across Colorado.

“They have not lost a structure as a result of their efforts and the tools we’ve helped to give them,” Gardner said. “To the personnel, thank you for the work that you continue to do.”

He and fellow Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet put a long-term funding measure in the omnibus spending bill to ensure there’s money to fight wildfires without draining other parts of the U.S. Forest Service budget for other programs.

“This Congress did a great job, a bipartisan fix that actually now allows us to treat it more like a normal, traditional natural disaster, instead of cannibalizing other funds within the Forest Service,” Gardner said Tuesday.

Gardner told how Colorado had a wet 2017 followed by dramatically dry conditions, turning last year’s growth into this year’s kindling.

“That’s unfortunately what we’ve seen in parts of Colorado this year,” he said.

He stressed, as Gov. John Hickenlooper did last week, that tourist towns such as Durango remain open. Leaders have been concerned that the national publicity could depress visits, the lifeblood of many mountain communities.

“You can still go to Durango, Colorado, you can go down the river, you can have an incredible time with your family,” he said in the nearly nine-minute speech carried on the C-SPAN cable channel. “I encourage people across this country not to cancel their vacations, not to cancel their plans, but to go ahead and visit.

“This town, this state, needs you now more than ever.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.