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77F1E50A3A50A3C187258442006CB08C Hearing Summary


Date Jul 25, 2019      
Location HCR 0112

County Perspective on Wildfire Matters - Committee Discussion Only

01:47:15 PM  

Karn Stiegelmeier, Summit County Commissioner, discussed wildfire issues in Summit County.  She provided information about Summit County's fire ban criteria (Attachments I and J), noting that the US Forest Service is currently using different criteria than the county.  She discussed successes in Summit County, including their ongoing fire mitigation plan, which sets priority areas and guides grant requests.  In response to committee member questions, she explained that the grants use county funds, and the county will pay 50 percent of the costs when private citizens do mitigation projects.

01:53:24 PM  
Commissioner Stiegelmeier discussed Summit
County's chipping program, where the county will chip vegetation that homeowners
gather and pile, noting the program's popularity.  She suggested that
the state review and expand its mitigation grants.  She discussed
the county's efforts to fund additional seasonal US Forest Service rangers
to manage campgrounds in the county.  She stated that overall the
county pays about $1 million annually toward fire prevention.
01:58:10 PM  
Representative Snyder and Commissioner Stiegelmeier discussed the ability of local governments to work with the federal government on wildfire mitigation.
02:00:07 PM  

Kathy Chandler-Henry, Eagle County Commissioner, discussed the Lake Christine Fire in Eagle County in 2018.  Birch Baron, Eagle County Emergency Manager, discussed the county's assumptions that people will continue to build in the county and fires will continue to ignite.  He provided a handout for the committee (Attachment K). He discussed the importance of mitigation and initial response. He explained that enforcement and incentives are both important.

02:06:47 PM  

Mr. Baron explained that Colorado needs a coordinated statewide mutual aid program.  He added that fire districts need alternative funding sources besides property taxes, as high property tax bases do not always correspond to high risks.  He discussed flooding and debris after the Lake Christine Fire, and the limits of the federal government's ability to warn residents of flooding.  Representative Snyder further discussed the flooding issue.

02:11:45 PM  
Mr. Baron responded to questions from Senator
Lee about fire district funding, agreeing to research possible regional
models.  Representative Carver noted that the statewide fire commission
will be working on this issue as well.  Commissioners Chandler-Henry
and Stiegelmeier, and Jefferson County Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper responded
to a question from Senator Crowder about the impact of the Gallagher Amendment
on their fire districts.
02:16:39 PM  

Commissioner Chandler-Henry responded to a question from Senator Fields about firefighting costs.  She explained that the county has to pay up front even if many costs are reimbursed. Commissioner Dahlkemper noted Jefferson County's efforts to "de-Bruce" the county in 2019. Commissioner Stiegelmeier explained that it can take years to wrap up the accounting after a wildfire.  Mr. Baron further discussed the uncertainty of firefighting costs.

02:22:02 PM  

Lesley Dahlkemper, Jefferson County Commissioner, discussed wildfire mitigation in Jefferson County. She provided a slideshow (Attachment L), and she introduced additional staff from the county sheriff's office, county open space, and the Elk Creek Fire Protection District.  She noted that Evergreen and Conifer, in Jefferson County, top the state for the number of housing units in the high and extreme wildfire risk categories.

02:28:02 PM  

Commissioner Dahlkemper described the county's slash program, the sheriff's fire management program, and other county mitigation efforts. She also discussed funding and challenges for Jefferson County's local fire departments, including a lack of volunteer firefighters and heavy equipment.  She explained that the county is examining WUI codes and what could be implemented through county building codes.

02:33:36 PM  

Dr. Andrew Rayburn, Jefferson County Open Space, responded to questions about the county's open space program.  He explained that the county owns most of the land by fee title and has a dedicated sales tax for open space. Chief Bill McLaughlin, Elk Creek Fire Department, responded to questions from Representative Cutter about his department staffing, noting that all his neighboring fire districts are also volunteer-based.  He explained that California and Washington are good examples of states with robust mutual aid programs for firefighting.  He discussed turning over command of a fire from local district to county to state to federal, noting that the transition to federal control is different from other levels.

02:46:36 PM  
Representative Carver and Senator Fields discussed the new Colorado Fire Commission.
02:47:27 PM  
Commissioner Dahlkemper responded to questions from Senator Crowder about county open space is taking land off the property tax roles. She explained that the county has a variety of budget issues and noted that the county's voters supported an additional sales tax for open space. Committee members discussed this point.
02:54:22 PM  

Senator Fenburg asked about homeless issues in the forests.  The counties answered that they are all dealing with the issue.

02:56:40 PM  

Representative Snyder asked how the legislature could assist in county efforts.  County commissioners mentioned that mitigation efforts are important, suggesting a mitigation fund that local governments could access with broad criteria, as well as expanded community awareness programs.

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