COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Eleven state agencies, experts from at least four Western states and two national organizations are in town for a two-day conference on wildfire prevention.
The event, called Creating Wildfire Resilient Communities; Colorado Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Forum, is the first of its kind held in the state.
"When the governor asked us to do this, I was sorry that it took us this long to do it," said Mike Morgan, director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and control. "But the time is now. Wildfires are only going to get worse in Colorado, and there are only so many resources to go around."
The forum's goal is to identify priorities needed to help communities be safer and recover from wildfires, and do more to help reduce the wildfire risk.
"The Hayman, Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires were among the most destructive in state history," Morgan said. "But now, they're not even in the top five because of worse fires we've had since then. And with drought, global warming and more people moving into the wildland-urban interface, there's no end in sight."
Guest speakers at the forum include experts from California, New Mexico and Texas; organizers hope that Colorado can learn best practices from those states, and vice versa.
"In California, we have a building code standard specifically for high-fire areas -- where we're building our homes to a higher standard," said Daniel Burlant, deputy director of CalFire (California State Fire Department). "That's something we're really trying to bring and share with our Colorado partners."
But Virginia Morrison Love, of the Colorado Association of Homebuilders, worries that adopting a similar standard would add to the cost of homes that are already too expensive for many potential buyers.
"I don't think it has to cost more, and I think our builders will be at the table every step of the way, to make sure that the proposals take cost into consideration," she said.
Justice Jones, wildfire mitigation manager for the Austin, Texas fire department, said that what his office does well is learn from others.
"We've taken a lot from Colorado Springs and the way they access wildfire risk," he said. "Colorado also has one of the strongest aerial firefighting programs in the nation. We're learning a lot about them."
Erik Litzenberg, former fire chief for Santa Fe, New Mexico, said that his state has to deal with drier conditions than Colorado has.
"They're really good at landscape management and recovering from fires," he said. "We've learned from the fires we had this spring, how much of a threat flash flooding is. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best, I think we're a 7 in terms of fire response, a 10 in public support, and we're trending toward a 10 in fire risk."
Morgan said that he'd rate Colorado a 7 in fire response and a 4 for fire mitigation; Jones rates Austin as a 7 overall, and Burlant rates California a 6 or 7 overall.
The event, being held at the Colorado Springs Marriott, is hosted by the Colorado Springs Fire Department and the Colorado Fire Commission's Wildland Urban Interface Subcommittee.
"We'd like to see this become an annual event," said Brett Lacey, fire marshal for Colorado Springs.