Colorado lawmakers propose new wildfire legislation
Gov. John Hickenlooper and lawmakers from both parties last week discussed eight bills aimed at improving Colorado’s ability to mitigate and fight wildfires.
“Colorado has seen some of the most catastrophic wildfires in our nation’s history,” Hickenlooper said. “This package of bills is the product of a legislative interim committee created last year and ongoing work on these issues by state agencies and their local partners. We are committed to doing what we can with the state’s available resources to keep Coloradans safe and reduce as much property loss from fire as possible.”
Of the eight bills up for consideration this session, three have originated in the Colorado Senate and five have been proposed in the House.
The bills run the gamut of exempting non-Colorado disaster relief workers from paying state income tax on money earned while responding to disasters in Colorado to allocating death benefit funds for seasonal wildland firefighters killed in the line of duty.
House District 61 Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, is carrying three of the five bills proposed in the House.
Hamner’s bills — which were advocated by Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs and a product of the Wildfire Matters Interim Review Committee — would grant local governments broader authority to prohibit agricultural burning and fireworks activity during periods of high fire danger, amend current state law to more clearly define who is authorized to oversee prescribed burns and provide the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority the ability to offer financial loans to private companies for bioenergy and forest health projects.
House Bill 14-1010, concerning supervision of prescribed burns, passed Wednesday, Jan. 29, out of the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, Hamner said.
“I was interested in these three measures because I thought they would have the greatest impact on the safety of the people of my district and for our firefighters,” she said. “I think the one of most importance is extending authority to Summit County officials to prohibit ag burns and fireworks during times a high fire danger.”
Although local governments already have the authority to prohibit certain types of burns, the verbiage defining that authority is confusing, Hamner said. Her bill, HB14-1007, simply clarifies what types of fire activities can be prohibited and under what circumstances.
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