Polis taps Colorado National Guard to help with wildfires

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Colorado Governor Jared Polis makes a point during a news conference on the state's efforts to curb the spread of the new coronavirus Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Colorado Governor Jared Polis makes a point during a news conference on the state’s efforts to curb the spread of the new coronavirus Wednesday, June 24, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — Gov. Jared Polis activated the Colorado National Guard on Friday to help with several wildfires burning across the state.

The governor’s office said a Black Hawk helicopter crew is on standby at the Guard’s high-altitude training site in Gypsum and will be available for searches and rescues. The helicopter is equipped with a hoist that can lift firefighters and residents out of harm’s way.

The State Emergency Operations Center also has requested that the Guard provide about 30 soldiers to help the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office keep traffic out of the area of the Cameron Peak Fire in northern Colorado. That fire started near Cameron Pass on Aug. 13 and has burned about 26 square miles (67 square kilometers).

The Pine Gulch Fire, the state’s largest, started July 31 and has blackened about 195 square miles (505 square kilometers) north of Grand Junction. Investigators say it was sparked by lightning and is burning in remote and rough terrain. No homes have been lost.

Meanwhile, Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon in western Colorado remained closed Friday because of a wildfire that has blackened the cliffs towering over the scenic roadway. The Grizzly Creek fire has burned nearly 47 square miles (122 square kilometers) since it started Aug. 10 and is 11% contained.

The closure of I-70, the state’s main east-west artery, has forced drivers headed across Colorado to take long detours for nearly two weeks and has strained local and regional supply chains.

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