Colorado lawmakers consider first wildfire mitigation bill

Evacuees drive through a traffic jam exiting Big Thompson Canyon along U.S. Highway 34 as the East Troublesome Fire, now the second largest in Colorado history, forces residents out of Estes Park near Loveland, Colo., on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Bethany Baker/The Coloradoan via AP)

DENVER | Colorado lawmakers will consider a bill to increase wildfire mitigation efforts, just a month since a devastating fire tore through suburbs north of Denver, destroying more than 1,000 homes and businesses and killing at least one person.

The bill, scheduled to be heard Tuesday afternoon in the Senate Local Government committee, creates a working group of federal, state and local fire and public safety officials to increase wildfire education and develop yearly outreach campaigns on wildfire awareness and mitigation for those in the wildland-urban interface.

The Legislature is considering several other fire-related measures that would increase funding for local volunteer fire departments, give tax credits to people who do their own fire mitigation and another that would require new fire disaster insurance and casualty coverage.

December’s fire caused nearly $513 million in damages and state lawmakers have promised to use this legislative session to address issues raised in the fire’s aftermath like affordable housing shortages, insurance coverage and plans for urban fire mitigation.

Experts say similar events will become more common as climate change warms the planet and suburbs grow in fire-prone areas. Ninety percent of Boulder County is in severe or extreme drought, and it hadn’t seen substantial rainfall since mid-summer.

The fire spanned 9.4 square miles (24 square kilometers) and ranks as the most destructive in state history in terms of homes and other structures destroyed and damaged.