City of Boulder to Consider New Fire Codes for “Interface” Areas

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, later this year the Boulder City Council will consider adopting regulations for the wildland-urban interface — city neighborhoods that abut open space — that will address everything from building materials to vegetation near homes. More than 70,000 communities across the United States lie in the wildland-urban interface, and some 7,000 jurisdictions, including Boulder County, have adopted some version of the interface code.

The extensive pre-evacuation notices issued in south Boulder for the Flagstaff Fire and the destruction wreaked in Colorado Springs by the Waldo Canyon Fire highlight the vulnerability of urban neighborhoods along the Front Range. Boulder Fire Chief Larry Donner said Boulder is much less vulnerable than Colorado Springs. The open space around the city creates defensible space and gives firefighters room to build firebreaks. Boulder homes also don’t go as high on the slopes, which makes them easier to defend and protects them from ash and embers drifting downhill.

Some of the recommendations in the code have already been adopted in Boulder. For example, nearly 20 years ago, the Citystarted phasing out wood-shingle roofs. One of the other recommendations in the master plan is to identify the remaining wood-shingle roofs and make sure are they replaced with more fire-resistant materials. Other elements of the code could require limiting trees near homes, restricting the types of trees that could be planted in yards and restricting wood decks, especially second-story decks.

Recommended code changes will likely be presented to the Planning Board and City Council this fall. The immediate effect on existing homes will be limited, with  requirements being phased in over time.

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