EVERGREEN, CO – Governor Jared Polis today signed four bills into law that will help Colorado communities prevent, respond to and prepare for future disastrous wildfires.
SB22-002, sponsored by Senators Joann Ginal and Tammy Story as well as Representatives Lisa Cutter and Perry Will, will invest $1 million to better prepare local fire departments and their firefighters for wildfires.
“Over the past few years wildfire season has evolved into a year-round threat,” said Senator Tammy Story, D-Conifer. “We must take steps to defend our homes and our communities from these climate-induced mega fires, and these laws will give more Coloradans the resources and knowledge they need to proactively defend themselves, their property, and their communities from future blazes.”
“The threat of destructive wildfires in Colorado is only growing due to climate change and extreme weather conditions, which means we need to be more prepared than ever,” said Rep. Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County. “The four bills signed by Governor Polis are preventative measures to prepare our local fire departments, improve Colorado’s mitigation efforts and invest in our communities’ safety. As wildfires grow in frequency and intensity, we’re taking action now to combat destruction, save lives and build a healthier state for all.”
The law will make local volunteer fire departments eligible for reimbursement for wildland fire suppression activities, including equipment costs and volunteer firefighter recruitment, training and retention. Local fire departments will also be able to use grant funds to replace or dispose of damaged or obsolete equipment. The law also provides behavioral health care services to firefighters, paid for by public employers.
SB22-007, sponsored by Senators Pete Lee and Tammy Story as well as Representatives Lisa Cutter and Marc Snyder, will expand an outreach campaign to raise awareness and motivate more than half of the state’s population to better prepare for extreme wildfires. The law will help folks living in fire-prone areas take steps to mitigate the risks of catastrophic wildfires and improve wildfire danger awareness.
“The Marshall Fire highlighted just how dangerous the threat of deadly wildfires has become,” said Senator Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs. “These laws will give millions of Coloradans the education and motivation they need to keep themselves and their property safe while also equipping local governments with the tools they need to support wildfire mitigation efforts and protect our forests from future damage.”
“Wildfires are encroaching on our homes, businesses and livelihoods–we need to mitigate the destruction and support communities,” said Marc Snyder, D-Manitou Springs. “I’m proud to stand behind two bills signed into law today by Governor Polis that will give Coloradans the tools to proactively defend their property from wildfire destruction and provide resources to local governments to fight wildfires. Improved mitigation is one of the best methods to combat catastrophic wildfires and our laws work at the local level to protect communities.”
SB22-007 will direct the Colorado State Forest Service to implement a wildfire mitigation public awareness campaign for 2023 and 2024 aimed at folks that live in the Wildland-Urban Interface, areas where structures and developments meet with wildland vegetation.
The Governor also signed HB22-1012, sponsored by Representatives Lisa Cutter and Donald Valdez as well as Senators Pete Lee and Joann Ginal, which will improve forest management to mitigate wildfire risks and increase the state’s carbon inventory – the capacity of plants and trees in the state to remove carbon from the air.
“The regular threat of wildfires has become scary and stressful, and serves as a constant reminder of the impact of global warming in our world,” said Senator Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins. “While we continue ramping up our wildfire mitigation efforts to keep Coloradans safe, we need to ensure that we are conserving our natural resources as well. This law will help improve forest management so we can better protect our forests from future destruction.”
The new law creates a framework to link forest management and wildfire mitigation goals with efforts to decarbonize the air through healthy forests.
Finally, the Governor signed HB22-1011, sponsored by Representatives Lisa Cutter and Marc Snyder as well as Senators Pete Lee and Tammy Story. This law will leverage local and private funds through a matching grant program to provide resources to local governments for forest management and wildfire mitigation efforts.
By incentivizing local governments to identify dedicated long-term funding for wildfire mitigation, the law makes smart investments to maximize state resources and encourage sustainable local and state funding for wildfire mitigation efforts.