Some Colorado HOAs ban using fire-resistant building materials. This proposed law could overrule that

Waldo Canyon Wildfire
AP Photo/Gaylon Wampler, File
In this June 26, 2012 file photo, fire from the Waldo Canyon wildfire burns as it moved into subdivisions and destroyed homes in Colorado Springs, Colo.

A Colorado Senate committee on Tuesday advanced legislation that would block homeowners’ association rules that prevent residents from using fire-resistant building materials, a change that firefighters and insurance experts say would give communities more options to harden properties against climate-fueled wildfires. 

The legislation would void language in homeowners’ and neighborhood association bylaws, deed restrictions, or property contracts that prevent residents from replacing materials that can easily ignite, including cedar shingles and wooden fences.

Members of the Senate Local Government and Housing Committee voted 6-1 to send the legislation to the full Senate for consideration after hearing testimony from firefighters, insurance experts, and frustrated residents, much of which echoed discussion during a House committee hearing on the proposed legislation earlier this month.

Some HOAs and neighborhoods across the state have bylaws mandating the use of flammable materials and other design elements for homes and landscaping that firefighters and fire safety experts say endanger communities, especially those near wildland areas where nearly half of Colorado’s population live.

During both the House and Senate committee hearings on the bill, lawmakers also heard testimony about how difficult it can be for residents to get HOAs and similar groups to change their bylaws or grant exemptions, even in communities in places like Louisville and Superior that have been ravaged by wildfires.

Fire officials in other wildfire-prone parts of the state told CPR News that HOAs and neighborhood associations have proactively amended their bylaws to account for growing wildfire risk.

Genesee Fire Rescue, a mostly volunteer crew that covers a small region west of Denver, has worked with HOA leaders to amend their design requirements with wildfires in mind, said Fire Chief Jason Puffett. 

Likewise, Jacob Ware, the fire chief for the Elk Creek Fire Protection District, said most of the HOAs in the area he covers — a region 30 miles southwest of Denver that includes forested communities like Bailey, Conifer, and Evergreen — don’t block the use of fire-resistant materials. 

“The bulk of them have gone the other direction and encourage mitigation [and] home hardening,” he said.