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April 17, 2023

House Committees Pass Bills to Mitigate Wildfires and Support Homeowners

DENVER, CO – House Committees today passed three bills to support Coloradans seeking homeowners insurance in wildfire prone areas, mitigate wildfires and create job opportunities to improve forest health.

“In Colorado, we’re taking tremendous steps to not only mitigate wildfires, but make it possible for homeowners in wildfire prone areas to purchase property insurance,” said Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, sponsor of HB23-1288. “We need to be prepared for the next wildfire disaster and our legislation to create a FAIR insurance plan makes sure Coloradans can receive proper homeowners and commercial insurance that protects their livelihood.”

“As wildfires become more frequent and destructive, we need to do everything we can to ensure homeowners are properly insured in the wake of a disaster,” said Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder, sponsor of HB23-1288. “Our legislation creates a pathway for homeowners in wildfire prone areas to receive insurance that protects their property, livelihood and the place they call home. Without this legislation, many Coloradans will be left with no homeowners insurance and we’re stepping up to make sure Coloradans’ property is protected from the next wildfire disaster.” 

HB23-1288, sponsored by Speaker McCluskie and Representative Amabile, passed the House State, Civic, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee by a vote of 8 to 1. This bill would create the Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan Association, a nonprofit,

unincorporated legal entity, to ensure Coloradans with homes and commercial properties located in wildfire zones can receive homeowners or commercial insurance. As destructive wildfires become more frequent in residential areas, many Coloradans struggle to find a private insurer that will cover their property at all. This bill would make sure Coloradans can find a carrier to insure their homes and commercial spaces as wildfires grow in frequency and destruction across Colorado. 

“We’re working to continuously improve Colorado’s wildfire response to protect our homes, businesses and neighborhoods,” said Speaker Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, sponsor of SB23-161. “This legislation will allow Colorado to purchase a second Firehawk helicopter, reducing our state’s rapid response time to quickly combat and put out wildfires in difficult terrain and keep our communities safe.”

SB23-161, sponsored by Speaker McCluskie and Minority Leader Lynch, passed the House Finace Committee by a unanimous vote. This bill would allow the state to purchase a second Firehawk helicopter, ensuring the Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) has at least one Firehawk available for rapid response at all times. Firehawk helicopters are considered the most technologically advanced firefighting aircraft available and this bill would improve the state’s ability to respond to catastrophic wildfires.

“Wildfires in Colorado are now a year-round threat and we need to ensure the state forest service has the workforce to keep us safe,” said Rep. Marc Snyder, D-Manitou Springs, sponsor of SB23-005. “Colorado’s made important progress when it comes to wildfire mitigation, and we’re furthering our efforts to protect communities by boosting our state’s forest health workforce. This legislation streamlines workforce development and recruitment within the state forest service so we can continue to mitigate wildfires through excess brush removal and other tactics that help us maintain healthy, more resilient forests.”   

SB23-005, sponsored by Representative Snyder and Minority Leader Lynch, passed the House Agriculture, Water & Natural Resouces Committee unanimously. This bill would improve Colorado’s forestry workforce by directing the Colorado State Forest Service to develop educational materials on career opportunities in the industry for students in high school, and creates a workforce development program within the State Forest Service to increase internship opportunities within the timber, forest health, and wildfire mitigation sectors.

The bill will also bolster the state’s wildfire mitigation capacity development fund to create and expand forestry programs specifically at Colorado Mountain College, as well as community colleges, technical colleges, area colleges, and public institutions of higher education in order to increase the state’s forestry workforce. SB23-005 would also work to increase the number of qualified educators at these institutions to deliver a wildland fire prevention and mitigation course or program.

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