Rant & Rave: Wildfires Bring Out the Best and Worst in Our Leaders

June 2013

Rant: Politicians Politicize; It's Your Job to Weed Through the Nonsense.

We've reached a point, in Colorado and throughout the United States, at which there apparently is never an appropriate time to talk politics. Whether it's after massacres in Aurora and Newtown, Connecticut; terrorist attacks in Boston; or natural disasters in Oklahoma or here, you can be sure that the aftermath of such tragedies will include each political party accusing the other one of politicizing misery for electoral gain. 

The most recent example happened this week after wildfires broke out around the state. This set off a round of tweets and statements from Republican senators Greg Brophy and Kevin Grantham (among others) skewering Governor Hickenlooper for not funding Senate Bill 13-245, a bipartisan measure that creates the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps.

Never mind that the Governor signed the bill, which landed on his desk without the $17 million in funding it needs to be implemented. Never mind that funding the bill is the job of...wait for it...the state senate. Never mind that even if it had been funded, the Air Corps couldn't possibly have been established in the one week between the law's signing and the fires breaking out. And never mind that one of the most vocal critics, Brophy, is—go figure—contemplating a run against Hickenlooper next year. All that matters in these scenarios is landing a few gut shots against the other guy.

Let's be clear: Both parties are guilty of these political cheap shots, and it will only stop once they realize it no longer works. And that is entirely up to us voters. If that seems like an unwinnable battle, we can start by simply recognizing that any time a politician invokes some form of "voters are smarter than that," they're counting on us being dumb enough to not see that we're being played.

Rave: Udall's 2012 Work on Forest Fires Pays Off in 2013.

Summer in Colorado means it's time for any number of enjoyable outdoor activities. Unfortunately, it also means it's high season for environmental crises. After this week's wildfires erupted throughout the state, they were fanned by record-setting temperatures and winds so fierce that a choky, bonfire-scented haze settled over Denver even though the closest blaze was more than 50 miles away.

If there's a silver lining in this, it's that our firefighters will be receiving at least some much-needed assistance from federal resources, even in the face of the ongoing governmental sequester. On Thursday, the Department of Defense announced that two C-130 airplanes will be equipped with Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems (MAFFs) and deployed to battle the Black Forest fire near Colorado Springs.

Thanks largely to Colorado's Senator Mark Udall, even more of these air tankers should be on the way. After 2012's Waldo Canyon Fire, Udall devoted considerable attention to securing more of these planes to fight subsequent infernos. Given our climate and geography, these tragedies will never be fully preventable, but it's heartening to see one of our elected officials diligently—and successfully—putting aside politics and channeling such welcome relief to areas that desperately need it.

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.