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Mead key in western talks about new ways to combat wildfires

Dec 13, 2013 - The Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead joined governors other Western states Thursday in telling federal officials that Thursday they are prepared to take on more responsibility for fighting wildfires.

During the annual winter meeting of the Western Governors Association on Thursday, state leaders told officials from the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Agriculture that they recognize times are tight and that they plan to spend more of their own resources fighting fires in their states.

"This is not just a federal issue, it's a state issue, and the states need to be involved heavily in it, not just in policy but in terms of financial support," said Mead. "We're willing to try new things. That's what states are good at. Not that we can't mess them up, but we can fix them when they do."

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said he recognizes the number of available firefighting planes is on the decline. He said he was interested in building a fleet of aerial support resources in Colorado.

Hickenlooper added that the state is considering taking other local measures, including mandating that buildings use fire-resistant materials, and requiring property owners to disclose wildfire risks to potential buyers the same way they must disclose flood risks.

"At a certain point we are going to have to do things differently. We cannot continue to spend the kind of money and take the kind of losses that we have over the past years," he said.

The association, established in 1984, aims to help state leaders share ideas, concerns and approaches to dealing with issues unique to the West. It includes governors from 19 states in the West, as well as Guam and American Samoa, but only a handful of leaders attended the conference.

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