Apr 10, 2014 12:24 AM by Maddie Garrett
After back-to-back summers of devastating wildfires, some Southern Colorado property owners are taking matters into their own hands. In Black Forest, trees are coming down and brush is getting cleared out to make sure homes are safe for this fire season. But all of that work comes at a cost.
Currently, you can get a tax deduction for mitigating your property against wildfire, but Colorado Springs lawmaker, Rep. Tony Exum, said that's not enough to help people. He's now sponsoring a new bill that would give people at tax credit for mitigation, covering 50% of property owners' costs to a maximum of $2,500.
Exum hopes it will get communities on board with protecting their homes and neighborhoods.
Black Forest resident Betty Olives thinks the bill is a good idea, and said she's seen a lot more mitigation going on in the Forest. On Wednesday afternoon, she was busy at work with family members cleaning up her five acre property.
"We keep all of our lower branches cleaned out and any dead trees that have died during the season," said Olives. "Every year we do the raking of the pine needles."
She loves her home in Black Forest and the surrounding landscape, and wants to protect it.
"Last year it was devastating, it was just devastating," Olives said of the wildfire.
To her, mitigation is a must, and more important than ever.
"It's crucial, it's just crucial, the devastation from last year should have been a wake up call for all of us who live here," she said of Black Forest.
From the basics like raking up pine needles, to taking out entire trees, fire mitigation can be a lot of work and expensive, especially if you hire someone. A typical five acre property that wasn't burned by the fire would cost about $5,000 to fully mitigate said Olives.
But clear cutting burned trees is much more expensive. Tree companies said it can cost anywhere from $1,600 to $4,000 acre, depending on the company and the amount of work to be done.
"It's going to help, but it's not going to give them maybe all the money that they spend on fire mitigation," said Rep. Exum of his new bill.
Exum worked in fire protection for decades, and believes it's important to help people as much as possible and encourage anyone who lives in a wild-land interface area to mitigate against wildfires. He hopes easing a homeowner's costs will do just that.
"We're hoping that will help to incentivize many property owners in the Pikes Peak region and across Colorado to be more proactive," said Exum.
Olives said she thinks the bill might help, but believes it's up to property owners to take action whether they get help or not.
"I think it is a nice bonus, but I think as residents of Black Forest we really need to take that upon ourselves whether or not we are getting a tax credit," she said.
The fire mitigation tax credit bill already passed in the State House with bipartisan support. It now goes to the Senate where it is also expected to pass.