New Report: Regulating the Wildland-Urban Interface—Three Case Studies from Colorado

New Report: Regulating the Wildland-Urban Interface—Three Case Studies from Colorado

Sep 26, 2022

Codes and regulations targeting the wildland-urban interface (WUI) can address a range of building, land use, and life safety topics, such as ignition-resistant construction materials, minimum fire protection standards for ingress, egress, and water supply, and landscaping or defensible space standards. These requirements can be adopted in a fire code, building code, subdivision regulations, land use code, WUI code, standalone ordinance, or a combination of the above.

In Colorado, unlike several other western states, there is currently no statewide minimum code that requires local jurisdictions to adopt minimum regulations for structures or other development in wildfire-prone areas. Further, Colorado jurisdictions have significant latitude, both statutorily and through broad “Home Rule” powers, to plan for and regulate the use and development of land under their jurisdiction, including the WUI. As a result, communities across Colorado have taken different approaches to crafting and adopting WUI regulations.

Interest in adopting local WUI regulations has increased in recent years in Colorado following destructive wildfires, including the Marshall Fire in December 2021. Earlier this year, the Colorado Fire Commission’s Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Subcommittee developed a proposal to create a WUI Code Board that would oversee statewide wildfire-related building and land-use standards for areas in the WUI. The proposal was endorsed by the Fire Commission and included as an amendment to an existing Senate Bill (SB22-206). Although the amendment was later removed prior to final vote, similar legislation may be introduced in future legislative cycles.

Local jurisdictions in Colorado need not wait for devastating fires to consider strategies and tools that address wildfire hazard WUI. The Community Wildfire Planning Center (CWPC), with funding support from the Argosy Foundation, produced a new report, Regulating the Wildland-Urban Interface, to showcase how three jurisdictions in Colorado—the City of Colorado Springs, Eagle County, and Ouray County—have taken different yet successful approaches to local adoption of wildfire regulations.

Each case study provides an overview of the community’s wildfire regulations and how they are administered and enforced. Regulations focus primarily on requirements for structure hardening, vegetation management, and minimum fire protection standards. In addition, each case study mentions additional voluntary mitigation activities that supplement the community’s overall approach to wildfire risk reduction. A summary of key takeaways also synthesizes insights from all three case studies.

Report findings will be highlighted during an upcoming webinar on Monday, November 7th, 10:00-11:30 AM MST. The webinar will feature speakers from each case study community sharing an overview and insights on wildfire regulations. The webinar is co-sponsored by CWPC, Fire Adapted Colorado (FACO), and the American Planning Association Colorado Chapter (APA CO). Register for the webinar here.