County and fire officials from Jefferson and Clear Creek counties watched Gov. Jared Polis sign three bills into law that will look at different facets of preparing for wildfire.
Polis stopped by Inter-Canyon Fire’s Station 1 in Morrison on May 12 to sign bills that will:
- establish a wildfire resiliency code board to create rules that governing bodies in the wildland-urban interface — including the Jefferson County foothills and Clear Creek County — will adopt to harden homes to reduce wildfire risk;
- increase the number of state fire investigators to four, rather than the one investigator it has now; and
- provide funding to give high school students more information about career opportunities in forestry and wildfire mitigation, and to provide community colleges with funding to create programs in wildland fire prevention and mitigation.
“These bills are the product of a lot of work, and it’s been a pleasure to help shepherd them through the legislature,” state Sen. Lisa Cutter, who represents District 20 that includes Evergreen, told the group that gathered for the bill signing.
“Any time the state puts more money into fire response is a good thing,” Inter-Canyon Fire Chief Skip Shirlaw added.
For Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, anything the state can do to avert wildfire is important.
“We are one lightning strike, one drought season and one unattended fire away from a catastrophic wildfire,” he noted.
Hardening homes to reduce wildfire risk
Clear Creek Commissioner Randy Wheelock said while Clear Creek County already has effective fire-resiliency codes for structures, it was important for all jurisdictions to have strong codes.
“Wildfires don’t stop at the border of Clear Creek County,” Wheelock said. “That means the quality with which homes are built will help not only save homes but help stop the spread of conflagrations. This is a big deal.”
Cutter added that a uniform code for structures would help protect the state in the long run, addressing wildfire threats that are increasing daily.
Increasing state fire investigators
Having more state fire investigators is important, especially for small fire districts, North Fork Fire Chief Curt Rogers said, noting that some fire departments don’t have investigators, so they rely on the state investigator.
The new law ensures the state has more capacity and resources to do the investigations, added Rep. Tammy Story, who represents District 25 including Evergreen and Conifer.
More fire investigators statewide who can help figure out why fires occur will provide more data, so the state can do whatever it can to stop them, Cutter said.
Education and recruitment
Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, who represents District 17 in eastern Boulder County, said she wanted to support the next generation to do forestry and wildfire mitigation work.
Cutter added: “If we don’t have people to do the work, we are all in trouble. Everyone tells us they need more people on the ground, and these programs will help with that.”