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Boulder County proposes wildfire mitigation tax

Commissioner Matt Jones said the money would go toward thinning forests, prescribed burns, and helping residents protect their homes from wildfires.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Fire is here to stay in Colorado. It's a natural part of the environment.

But, as the fire season extends year-round, a Boulder County commissioner said they need to be doing more to make wildfires easier to put out and protect homes from burning. 

A new tax on the November ballot would create funding for wildfire mitigation.

 "The Marshall Fire and then this Cal-wood Fire were just wake up calls," said Matt Jones, a Boulder County commissioner and former wildland firefighter. "It’s just critical we get ahead, to proactively protect homes and forest from these catastrophic wildfires we’re having.”

Credit: KUSA
Calwood Fire Burn Area

Reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires in Boulder County is something Jones said they need to be proactive about.

"We know we have this problem and we need to address it," he said. "That's what mitigation does for you. It gives firefighters a chance to stop a fire and it keeps the forest far more healthy."

A new, countywide sales and use tax on the November ballot would generate up to $11 million per year for wildfire mitigation.

"We're not doing enough, fast enough," said Jones. "We've got to do it at a scale that fires are these days. We can't do it the old way."

He said, if approved by voters, the money generated by the new tax would pay for more land mitigation like thinning out forests and prescribed burns.

"The NCAR fire, they stopped that fire just on the west side of Boulder in large part because they thinned the forest and did prescribed burns and that's where they stopped it," Jones said.

RELATED: Here's how firefighters kept the NCAR Fire from reaching homes

The funds would also extend the Wildfire Partners program to residents on the eastern side of the county, which helps people make their homes more fire-resistant.

"You've got to improve your chances. That's what it is," said Jones. “It’s simple stuff. No burnable material within 5 feet, a class A roof, which most people have, screens on your vents. It’s real simple stuff that people can do that would help with fires.”

Mitigating homes against fire is something Jones said firefighters wish they saw more of during the Marshall Fire.

RELATED: Wood fences found to be pathways for Marshall fire to spread between homes

"That fire could've been less severe," he said. "The firefighters could've been much safer making a stand in that town had these homes been fixed up so that they're not as flammable."

He said wildfire mitigation will also help protect water supplies and create more resilient forests and grasslands.

"We've got to do something about it and that's where I keep my hope," he said. "By passing this funding measure we will have more money to do that proactive work and keep the place in tact. The place that we love."

Jones said this is a 0.1% tax, which is a penny on ten dollars.

Besides the wildfire mitigation tax, there's also an emergency services tax and transportation tax on Boulder County's November ballot.

RELATED: Boulder search and rescue team says new headquarters badly needed

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