Colo. City Enacts New Fire Codes for Homes in Wildlands

June 24, 2013
Championed by a Colorado Springs fire marshal, the codes ban wood siding and decking, among other things, for homes in the foothills adjacent to forest lands, or the red zone.

June 23--New Colorado Springs fire codes enacted after the Waldo Canyon fire are shaping home construction in neighborhoods beyond Mountain Shadows, where 347 homes were destroyed in June 2012.

The codes, made a part of city law in December, have affected new homes in hillside neighborhoods across the city. Championed by Colorado Springs Fire Marshal Brett Lacey, the codes ban wood siding and decking, among other things, for homes in the foothills adjacent to forest lands, or the red zone. Some developed areas, too, are slowly changing their construction to adhere to the codes, Lacey said.

Residents have emailed Lacey countless photos of their progress -- newly stuccoed houses, narrower soffit vents, all a part of the new code.

Just as after the 2002 Hayman fire, the Waldo Canyon fire of 2012 and the Black Forest fire have heightened awareness. Lacey and his staff regularly give talks to HOAs about the codes, the fire and how Mountain Shadows burned.

The home losses June 26, 2012, were caused mostly with embers as small as raindrops but whose power for destruction was multiplied when they came in contact with cedar shake roofs or wood siding.

The codes have transformed Mountains Shadows, turning it into an eclectic mix of modern and 30-year-old homes.

The codes are not retroactive, and that has left many residents wondering if the wood-sided houses on their block could pose a threat.

Since the fire, more than 13,000 Colorado Springs residents have upgraded their roofing, according to the fire marshal's office. At least two homes were rebuilt in Mountain Shadows with fire-resistant lumber. And some residents, such as Mary Ann Collins, who lives on Ashton Park Place and whose home survived, have decided to follow the example of neighbors who are rebuilding. When her wooden siding needed to be replaced, Collins chose to get her house stuccoed even though the codes apply only to new construction and rebuilds, she said in early June.

Other neighborhoods that have been resistant to mitigation work, such as some in southwestern Colorado Springs, are starting to embrace it, Lacey added. Efforts to protect those neighborhoods -- by updating homes to new codes or creating a community mitigation plan -- are bringing neighbors together.

Ultimately, there's nothing like a large smoke plume to drive home the reality of a wildfire. And in the Pikes Peak region, that has happened twice in less than a year.

"You don't believe it's real until it really happens," Lacey said.


Contact Ryan Maye Handy: 636-0261

Twitter @ryanmhandy

Copyright 2013 - The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

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