New statewide panel tackles wildfire issues

Colorado Fire Commission consists of 32 members seeking innovative solutions


The new Colorado Fire Commission is a “roll-up-your-sleeves” type of group.

“It's clear to me this is a group focused on getting work done on behalf of Colorado,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper, who is serving on the commission representing Colorado counties located on the eastern slope. “Colorado's fire risk continues to escalate. This issue is a critical one for Colorado.”

In early June, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill, Senate Bill 19-040, establishing the Colorado Fire Commission.

The overall goal of the commission is to “bring together stakeholders from across Colorado to come up with innovative solutions to our growing fire problem,” said Lisa Pine, the Colorado Fire Commission's administrator.

Pine added that while wildland fires are a big part of the commission's focus, it will be also be looking at other related issues that affect residents, such as insurance rates, for one example.

The commission will “help inform how the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control grows in the future,” Pine said.

The commission consists of 32 appointed members. Six are voting members, including the director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control and the director of the Colorado State Forest Service. Eight are non-voting ex officio members, such as someone representing real estate brokers and another representing the insurance industry. The last 24 are the appointed voting members, who represent a variety of groups including fire chiefs, volunteer and career firefighters, county sheriffs, and municipalities and special districts.

“This is an inclusive group that knows how important it is to hear different voices,” Dahlkemper said, as well as “the importance of being action-oriented.”

Senate Bill 19-040 directs the commission to look at 10 fire-related issues. These range, for example, from “developing an accurate understanding of Colorado's fire problems, including the number of injuries and fatalities, overall fire losses and the causes and origins of structural and wildland fires” and “assessing the capacity of the state to provide emergency fire support and technical expertise to local communities,” according to the bill's language.

Bob Baker, fire chief for South Metro Fire Rescue, described the bill's direction for the commission as “ambitious objectives.” But he added that all the members of the commission are leaders in public safety, bringing with them different areas of expertise.

The group is “looking forward to producing something that's actionable,” Baker said, and “initiatives that will move Colorado forward.”

The commission started tackling some of the tasks during its first meeting on Oct. 9 in Glenwood Springs. Members formed three subcommittees: statewide and regional coordination and mutual aid, funding mechanisms for large wildland fires; and improving fire data collection.

Within these subcommittees, the members will identify research that needs to be done and start working toward problem-solving, Pine said. The subcommittees will come up with recommendations to take to meetings of the full commission, which will take place about every three months in different locations across Colorado, for discussion and action, Pine added.

And then the commission will report its findings to the state legislature — the Wildfire Matters Review Committee, which is tasked with studying wildfire prevention and mitigation; the House's Rural Affairs and Agriculture committee; and the Senate's Agriculture and Natural Resources committee.

“We're looking at Colorado as a whole,” Pine said. “It's important that we sit in front of the legislature to show that the commission was a good idea, and that (its members) came up with real solutions to some of the fire issues we're facing.”


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