‘It’s on us’: Wildfire bills pass state

DENVER — Two bills to prevent devastating wildfires and increase funding for local fire departments have passed the state House of Representatives.

HB22-1132 aims to prevent devastating forest fires caused by controlled burning. Coloradans will need to notify local fire departments or government authorities before proceeding with a controlled burn. Under the bill, alerted authorities will determine if firefighters are needed at the burn site.

Rep. Richard Holtorf (R-CO Dist. 64) and Rep. Tony Exum (D-Colorado Springs) are the primary sponsors of the bill. It passed by a vote of 56-6.

“In an instant, controlled combustion can turn a corner and ignite a devastating wildfire,” Rep. Tony Exum said. “This bill will give local services the knowledge they need to prevent uncontrolled burning in their communities and help prevent wildfires.

SB22-002 would invest $1 million to better prepare local fire departments and their firefighters to deal with wildfires. It would reimburse local volunteer fire departments for wildfire suppression activities, including equipment costs and the recruitment, training, and retention of volunteer firefighters. Funds from the Local Firefighters Safety and Disease Prevention Grant Program will allow for the replacement or disposal of damaged or obsolete equipment. SB22-002 also establishes the Firefighter Behavioral Health Benefits Trust to provide behavioral health care services to paid firefighters who would be paid by public employers.

That bill, sponsored by Rep. Lisa Cutter (D-Littleton) and Rep. Perry Will (R-CO Dist. 57), passed 58 to 4.

“Our bill provides volunteer firefighters with up-to-date equipment, access to behavioral health resources and other supports they need,” Rep. Cutter said. “Many of our brave firefighters are volunteers, and it’s our responsibility to support them as they work so hard to protect us, especially as wildfires increase in frequency and intensity.”

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