DENVER, Colo. (KRDO) -- Following the devastating Marshall Fire in Boulder County, Colorado legislators have already introduced several bills pertaining to wildfire preparedness to kick off the 2022 session.
State Sen. Pete Lee, a Democrat from Colorado Springs, has already sponsored four bills concerning the growing threat introduced to the House and Senate on Wednesday.
"At the state level, we had a Wildfire Matters Review Committee that met for months during the summer," said Sen. Lee to 13 Investigates on Day 1 of the 2022 Legislative Session. "During that committee, we proposed half a dozen bills that will hopefully incentivize mitigation programs."
If passed, two of the bills sponsored by Sen. Lee would establish grant programs for the Colorado State Forest Service to assist local municipalities with forested areas prevent and recover from wildfire incidents and provide grants to conduct outreach among landowners in high wildfire hazard areas.
HB22-1011 titled 'Wildfire Mitigation Incentives For Local Governments' would provide state funding assistance in the form of grant awards to local governments in order to match any revenue raised for the use and purpose of wildfire mitigation efforts.
Then there is SB22-007, which would require the Forest Service to form a working group to consider how best to conduct enhanced wildfire awareness month outreach campaigns in 2023 and 2024. The working group would also conduct outreach to better inform and motivate residents in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) to engage in mitigation efforts.
"I think people don't really know what they can do to reduce the fire risks. They don't know how to harden their structures to make them less vulnerable to fires," Sen. Lee said.
The three bills introduced in the House were sent to the Energy & Environment committee for review, while the one bill introduced in the Senate was sent to the Local Government Committee.
In November, the group Westside Watch presented a draft of an ordinance to the Colorado Springs City Council that would detail how long it takes to evacuate neighborhoods during a wildfire.
The ordinance includes a requirement for the city to identify the current evacuation times within Colorado Springs neighborhoods and requires the city to provide evacuation studies for all new developments. The ordinance would also require the city to release evacuation maps for hazards from all cardinal directions and place a moratorium for all buildings in certain fire-prone neighborhoods throughout the city, or at least until the ordinance is passed.
Sen. Lee tells 13 Investigates he doesn't believe Colorado Springs City Council has fully acted on plans pertaining to fire preparedness.
"We need to have an evacuation plan," Sen. Lee said. "People need to know what the projected evacuation routes are, or if they are available to them. Consideration of evacuation needs to be incorporated into developers' plans so the people can get out."
In February, City Council will meet for a work session to continue discussing fire evacuation preparedness in Colorado Springs and what was brought up in Westside Watch's proposed ordinance.
Colorado Springs City Council President Tom Strand told 13 Investigates the city is working with police and fire officials to update the city's evacuation plans. However, he isn't sure Westside Watch's ordinance is the way to go about implementing change.
“What is really going to be in the best interest of public safety and what about the people that just want to stop development and growth," Strand said. "I think some people will have put information in this proposed ordinance that is really to stop the growth, other than what’s in the best interest of people’s safety?”
During the work session in November, Colorado Springs City Council members were also given the results from a highly anticipated fire evacuation study - paid for by the group Westside Watch and other private citizens.
The study, first reported on by 13 Investigates, raises serious concerns about just how long it will take to get residents in the city's most fire-prone neighborhoods to safety if a major wildfire were to break out.