Gov. John Hickenlooper’s wildfire team unveiled an overhaul of how Colorado deals with the growing problem of people building houses in forests prone to burn, shifting more of the responsibility to homeowners.
The overhaul recommends that lawmakers charge fees on homes built in woods, rate the wildfire risk of the 556,000 houses already built in burn zones on a 1-10 scale and inform insurers, and establish a state building code for use of fire-resistant materials and defensible space.
Sellers of homes would have to disclose wildfire risks, just as they must disclose flood risks. And state health officials would adjust air-quality permit rules to give greater flexibility for conducting controlled burns in overly dense forests to reduce the risk of ruinous superfires….
Protecting homes from wildfires is increasingly costly, with the state’s share going up from around $10 million a year to $48 million in 2012 and $54 million this year – some of which may be reimbursed by the federal government.
Yet construction in the mountains and foothills is accelerating. A Colorado State University study found development will cover 2.1 million acres in wildfire-prone areas by 2030, up from about 1 million today.
But parts of the plan face opposition from developers and the real estate industry.
“When you put a number 10 on a house, it can change the game. In a lot of cases, it could make property un-sellable,” said Colorado Association of Home Builders chief Amie Mayhew, a task force member.
Under the risk ratings recommendation, a home classified as high-risk would go through a “mitigation audit” to specify how to protect it against wildfire. Homeowners who do so could have their risk ratings reduced, said Barbara Kelley, director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, who ran the task force.”Homeowners in the wildland-urban interface should take on more of the responsibility” for protecting against wildfire, Kelley said.
Developers and the real estate industry also oppose a state building code unless implementation and enforcement is left up to local authorities.
And the Colorado Association of Realtors – not represented on the task force – rejects requiring disclosure of wildfire risks before home sales, vice president Rachel Nance said. House contracts could simply include a website address where buyers could conduct their own research into risks, she said.
The Denver Post’s Bruce Finley had this article in the paper a few days ago. Below are some highlights from the article: