Hickenlooper signs wildland fire executive orders, lifts ban on prescribed burns

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DENVER — Gov. John Hickenlooper signed executive orders Wednesday aimed at reducing the risk of loss in future wildland fires, increasing customer knowledge of insurance options and protect forest health and lifting an existing ban on prescribed burns while offering new guidelines for when they can take place.

“More than 25 percent of Colorado’s population lives in the wildland-urban interface,” Hickenlooper said. “These new Executive Orders, along with a proposed fuels reduction grant program, detail actions that can help reduce the loss from wildland fires and increase protection for communities, first responders and property investments.”

Executive Order B 2013-002 creates the Task Force on Wildfire Insurance and Forest Health to examine how to best protect property and people within and adjacent to the wildland-urban interface and Colorado’s landscape, which is critical to the state’s economic health.

The task force will review issues regarding insurance coverage at the 2012 fires including replacement costs for destroyed homes, relocation assistance, accounting for lost personal property and the timing of insurance benefits. It will explore how to provide better understanding of insurance coverage for policyholders. Also, it will explore insurance policies that promote forest health, reduce wildland fire threats and help incentivize wise planning and stewardship and reduce loss of life and property.

Executive Order B 2013-001 creates the Wildland and Prescribed Fire Advisory Committee. The Committee will advise the Director of the Division of Fire Prevention and Control on all matters pertaining to wildfire preparedness, response, suppression, coordination, or management and prescribed fire.

Last March, Hickenlooper suspended the use of prescribed and controlled burning by state agencies or on state lands until protocols and procedures were reviewed and revised as necessary. Executive Order D 2013-002 amends that suspension to allow for slash pile burning under controlled conditions and new guidelines.

These new guidelines go above and beyond the recommended best practices for slash pile burning to ensure all such burns are conducted in a safe and effective manner.

“Although weather conditions across Colorado have changed over the recent months, for those Colorado residents living in the wildland-urban interface, there is still concern of disastrous wildfire,” the Executive Order says. “Pile burning operations in this area will reduce the risk of devastating wildfires, by reducing the hazardous accumulation of slash resulting from fuels treatment activities. These fuel treatment activities not only reduce wildfire potential, but work to increase the health of forests, by thinning forest strands and eliminating weak and diseased trees. Weaker trees that remain in the forest are prone to insect attacks and disease.”

These Executive Orders come at the same time the governor is requesting $10.3 million for the Department of Natural Resources in an amended budget request. The funding is for a grant program that would match local dollars for improving forest health and wildfire prevention in wildland-urban interface areas.

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