The state’s Governor, Jared Polis, signed a bill on Friday 12 May allocating US$26 million of funding to purchase the aircraft. The aircraft is expected to also provide search and rescue (SAR) support outside of the wildfire season.
It follows the purchase of a previous aircraft of the same type in March 2021. That aircraft is due to come into service in the next few weeks, following the completion of tests, and will be stationed at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Jefferson County.
The helicopters will work alongside two Pilatus PC-12s currently operated by the state.
Colorado is currently heavily reliant on private firefighting contractors, some of which operate under regional contracts that cover multiple states at once.
Speaking at a press conference at Centennial Airport, Governor Polis said: “We need to be able to control our aerial capacity. We do some of that through contract work. But we can also do it, which is a lot better value for taxpayers on an ongoing basis, by purchasing some equipment that is good for decades. We want to make sure that we have the air support we need when we have a fire – and then we’re going to look at the most efficient way to get that.”