Gov. Jared Polis signed three bills into law Thursday to assist victims of wildfires and try to prevent fires from happening in the first place.
Polis signed the measures months after Colorado suffered the Marshall fire, the most destructive wildfire in state history. Record-breaking wildfires have become more and more common in the state, with the three largest wildfires in Colorado history all occurring in 2020.
“We know we're going to see more frequent and more destructive natural disasters,” Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, said. “It’s essential that we act now to prepare for and mitigate future climate-induced disasters, improve our response to the destruction left in their wake, and make sure rebuilding and insurance processes are less burdensome for affected homeowners.”
One of the bills, Senate Bill 206, funds $35 million in grant programs to support rebuilding after wildfires, creates the Office of Climate Preparedness to coordinate disaster recovery efforts and spends $15 million on wildfire fighting aviation resources and a statewide dispatch center.
House Bill 1379 spends $20 million of federal COVID-19 relief funds on conserving watersheds to prevent wildfires through mitigation, watershed restoration and flood mitigation grants.
Finally, House Bill 1111 increases the amount of lost property insurance providers have to cover upfront from 30% of the value to 65% and extends the timeframe wildfire victims have to rebuild their homes from 12 months to 36 months. The changes only apply to future declared fire disasters, which would not help victims of recent wildfires.
“Climate change is leading to more destructive and frequent fires that have devastated Colorado communities,” said Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder, who sponsored two of the bills. “With these new laws, Colorado is taking a major step forward to prepare for the next disaster, rebuild communities and ensure property owners receive what they are owed.”
The three bills are among 14 wildfire-related measures legislators introduced this session, 11 of which were passed. The rest of the measures that made to the governor's desk still await Polis' signature, including legislation to improve forest health, support firefighting and fund wildfire mitigation efforts and outreach.