(Jun 3) – Governor Polis signed two bills today that protect firefighters and help combat wildfires and protect public safety.
Rep. Tony Exum’s bipartisan bill, which was unanimously passed out of the House, looks to protect firefighters from the dangerous impacts of the manmade Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFA) which is used regularly in the profession.
“As a former battalion chief, we often used the material during training and this toxic material increased the health concerns of my fellow firefighters,” said Rep. Exum, D-Colorado Springs. “When we used this material, it would frequently contaminate the drinking water of the surrounding communities. This is a long overdue step that we can take to protect our courageous firefighters who fight for us and protect the health of people in our communities.”
PFA substances are used to battle high-heat fires. The EPA has deemed this material toxic as it stays in the body for two to seven years upon exposure. HB19-1279 prohibits the use of PFA during firefighting training exercises and includes a fine for compliance failure. The money collected from these fines would go to the Local Firefighters Safety and Disease Prevention Fund.
Finally, it also created the Firefighters Foams and Personal Protection Equipment Act, which prohibits the use of PFAs, requires companies to inform consumers if their equipment has been treated with this hazardous material and requires the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) to conduct surveys to learn if any stations are using this material.
Rep. Barbara McLachlan’s bill to help combat wildfires was also signed today by the Governor.
“Wildfire season is fast approaching,” said Rep. McLachlan, D-Durango. “Implementing a system to patrol the airspace above the fires will give our firefighters the tools they need to keep our homes, communities and themselves safe.”
SB19-020 directs the Center of Excellence (COE) to study and implement a system to patrol the airspace above a wildland fire.
The COE was created under SB14-164 in the Division of Fire Prevention and Control in the Dept. of Public Safety. Its mission is to protect Colordoans, land and resources in Colorado by researching, testing and evaluating existing and new technologie that support sustainable effective and efficient aerial fighting techniques.
Detection of drones is currently limited to visual observation which poses challenges during a wildland fire.