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2020 Cal-Wood and Lefthand Canyon Fires

Next Steps After Cal-Wood & Lefthand Canyon Fires

Public Meetings And Hearings

Community Planning & Permitting Department Docket DC-20-0004: Land Use Code Text Amendments related to Article 19 (Procedures Following Disasters)
The Boulder County Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners heard Docket DC-20-0004: Article 19 Cal-Wood Fire Rebuilding Regulations and took public comment in February of 2021. On Feb. 25, 2021 the Board of County Commissioners voted (3-0) to approved Docket DC-20-0004: Article 19 Cal-Wood Fire – Land Use Code Text Amendments. This approval creates Section 19-400 of the Land Use Code, which establishes an interim permitting procedure for rebuilding structures destroyed by the October 2020 Cal-Wood Fire, effective Feb. 25, 2021.
Planner: Hannah Hippely
Documents: Staff report for Feb. 25, 2021

We know this is a very difficult time for all those impacted by the Cal-Wood and Lefthand Canyon fires in Boulder County. We want you to know we are here to help.

Please reach out to 303-441-1206 if you were evacuated and need help, and see the English/Spanish flyer for returning evacuees for additional information.

Boulder County remains committed to supporting you. General information about what to consider after a major wildfire is outlined in this Fire Recovery Guide. Please tell us other information you need by emailing

Process After a Wildfire



Property owners are responsible for the cleanup of their property, and in many cases there may be insurance coverage for this cleanup. Please check with your insurance provider for your policy details about cleanup. Cleanup includes the removal of all hazardous vegetative debris, yard and household debris, and remaining structural elements including foundations that cannot be reused due to damage. A foundation must be evaluated by a Colorado Licensed Structural Engineer if you wish to try and re-use it.

Boulder County has curated a list of possible local contractors (this list is not a complete list of available contractors).

Foundation Evaluation & Removal

Wildfire usually destroys the structural integrity of structure foundations. Evaluation of the foundation should occur concurrently with property clean up so it can be removed with other debris if it is not usable. Foundations should be evaluated by a Colorado state licensed engineer, typically a structural engineer, when determining if they can be reused. If the foundation is not reusable it should be removed as part of the property clean up. If the foundation is determined to be intact and structurally sound it may be integrated into the building permit plan set for the new dwelling.

A deconstruction permit from Community Planning & Permitting is required for the removal of structural elements on your property. At times, clean up may also require the installation of temporary electrical service, a permit is required for the installation of temporary electrical service.

CP&P is working on one joint permit that will cover all of the individual foundation removals for Mountain Ridge property owners.

Permit applications for deconstruction and for temporary electrical service will be made through Boulder County’s online portal. You will need to register for an account if you don’t already have one.

Once a permit is issued and the work is completed an inspection will be required. Please schedule an inspection by emailing the building inspectors directly at

The health and safety of people is a significant concern when cleaning up structures destroyed by fire due to the nature of the materials that have burned. The State of Colorado is requiring the submittal of a form related to the property clean up and has published a set of guidelines to be followed when undertaking property cleanup:

Other Considerations

OWTS a.k.a. Septic

If your tank and/or soil treatment area (leach field) was not damaged it could be reused if the property is redeveloped. Sewer lines should be capped until ready to be reconnected. Consider having the tank pumped as part of your property clean up.

If the property will not be redeveloped, the septic tank should be properly abandoned. Have the tank pumped and then filled with sand or gravel, remove, or crush and leave in place.

When returning to your property, inspect the area where your septic system is located for signs of damage from fire and traffic from fire-fighting operations. If you feel your septic system may have been damaged, discontinue use until a licensed professional has inspected the system. The system may have been impacted if:

  • Plastic piping above ground has melted.
  • Evidence of vehicle traffic in the area of the system.
  • The raised system was in the direct line of fire (i.e. grass on top is scorched).
  • There is damage in the area where the pipes enter the home.

What to do When Your Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Experiences a Power Outage


If you are serviced by a well inspect your wellhead for damage. If there is damage cover the wellhead and contact a well service provider.

If you are serviced by Left Hand Water District they have already removed meters from any properties that were a total loss in these wildfires. You do not need to contact them about disconnecting service.

If you want to restore your service at some point in the future, please contact Left Hand Water directly at 303-530-4200.

If water is supplied by another service provider please contact them directly.

Weighing Options

Insurance Coverage

If your property is damaged or destroyed, the guidance provided below will help you get started on the road to recovery, make good decisions, and keep moving forward:

Each insurance provider and policy is different, so be sure to reach out to your specific provider for more information about your coverage options for cleanup and the options for the future of your property.

Natural Disaster Property Valuation Process

Please see this brochure from the State of Colorado.

By the middle of November the Boulder County Assessor’s Office will finish prorating the values for any destroyed homes from Cal-Wood or Lefthand Canyon fires. The value will be prorated using Oct. 17, 2020 as the date the homes were destroyed. The properties will only have taxes calculated on the value remaining on the property. This is for taxes payable in 2021.

On Dec. 15 the Assessor will report the reduction in value to the Boulder County Treasurer where he will verify the property tax that is eligible for reimbursement from the State Treasurer. The State Treasurer will reimburse the county for the remainder of the taxes due for the properties. For properties that are completely destroyed the property owners will not owe taxes next year.

Properties that have been damaged (but not destroyed) do not qualify for proration or tax relief. The Assessor’s Office will review properties in January to make sure they have been described accurately.

As long as the Assessor’s Office finds evidence of the intention to rebuild a home, the land will be taxed at the residential rate for two more years. Intention to build is generally shown in building permits being pulled to rebuild the home. In 2023, if no home is built, the land will be reclassified and taxed as vacant land.

The properties that have Senior or Veterans Exemptions keep the exemption for the 2021 tax bill. If the property owner shows intention to rebuild the exemption will stay on the property and it will stay on the property unless in 2023 we reclassified the property as vacant land. If rather than rebuild, they chose to buy a new home (in any county in Colorado), they can apply for the Senior Exemption for their new home in 2021 using the Long Form. They will not need to meet the required years of ownership criteria on the new home. The Senior Exemption Long Form can be requested from the Assessor’s Office in January.

Approved Regulations

For information about approved regulations, please contact Hannah Hippley (Long Range Planning Manager, Boulder County Community Planning & Permitting) or Kim Sanchez (Deputy Director, Boulder County Community Planning & Permitting).


BuildSmart logoSince Boulder County BuildSmart, the county’s building code requirements and energy efficiency code, may drive your design, we held a community meeting on Jan. 11 with property owners, architects, and contractors to provide information on this program and answer questions. View the recorded meeting.

Please take a look at the regulations in place through the BuildSmart program. All new construction in Boulder County will need to adhere to the regulations within BuildSmart (this may include adding things like indoor sprinkler systems). Don’t hesitate to contact Ron Flax, Chief Building Official, to ask questions and learn more about BuildSmart and other building code requirements.

Lighting Requirements

Please see this document for Boulder County’s outdoor lighting requirements.

Revegetation Guidance

Please see this page for information and resources to guide the revegetation process.

Restoration and Burnt Trees

Boulder County will receive funding through the National Resource Conservation Service EWP program (Emergency Watershed Program). The bulk of that funding will be spent applying wood mulch over about 1500 acres of the moderate and high severity burn areas on slopes 20-60%. Many studies have shown that mulching, either with wood or straw is the single best thing you can do to mitigate for soil erosion and debris flows. The money cannot be used on Federal lands, so we are not doing work on USFS lands, only County and larger private parcels. To that end we have identified the HOA lands above both subdivisions as candidates for treatment. There is no plan to mulch private parcels.

Our Forester and others have said that the slope is accessible enough to allow a machine to masticate the trees. You may or may not be familiar with this practice, but it is essentially a high clearance tracked excavator with a shredding attachment where the bucket would be. It takes standing dead trees and shreds them into mulch. This practice has multiple benefits. One, it provides a woody mulch covering on the soil without the need for finding trees off site to grind for that mulch. Two, it removes the dead hazard trees, which can be both a safety and an aesthetic concern. We would not remove every tree, likely leaving pockets around rock outcrops or other areas, aiming for treating approximately 70% of the slope. Of course we will need permission from the HOAs to do this. We are in communication with the HOA presidents.

A second part of this discussion is the hazard trees that exist along access roads, driveways and on each of the private parcels. Unlike the HOA lands, private land in your subdivisions is not part of the funded EWP work. The County assumes this work may be completed by each landowner and their insurance company, or the larger HOA can coordinate something. If this can be done in a timely fashion, the County would be interested in using the trees as mulch on other areas of the fire. If it can be organized across the subdivision and the logs stockpiled in an accessible place, our contractor could haul the logs thus helping us, and providing some cost savings on your end. The specifications we have are 8-inch diameter minimum, de-limbed logs. This would likely need to be done by mid-April.

Additional Restoration Resources:

Newsletters for Impacted Neighbors

Sign up for regular email updates about Boulder County wildfire recovery:

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If you have questions about wildfire recovery, please email

View Heil Valley Ranch Cal-Wood Fire Recovery information and news.

Staff Contacts

Garry Sanfaçon

Recovery Manager

Hannah Hippely

Long Range Planning Manager | Community Planning & Permitting

Joycelyn Fankhouser

Emergency Management Coordinator | Housing & Human Services

Sharon Bokan

Small Acreage Coordinator | CSU Extension Office, Parks & Open Space

Kim Sanchez

Deputy Director | Community Planning & Permitting

Ron Flax

Chief Building Official | Community Planning & Permitting

Therese Glowacki

Resource Management Manager | Parks & Open Space


United Policyholder Events

Survivor to Survivor Forums
March 2 & 16, 2021, 8 p.m.

Trained UP volunteers with personal experience recovering from previous wildfires share practical tips for loss recovery and coping with insurance claims.

Roadmap to RecoveryTM Workshop #6
March 10, 2021, 5:30 p.m.

Taxing Matters for Wildfire-Impacted Households. Three CPAs with extensive experience advising disaster survivors will share key tips on tax strategies for the underinsured, casualty loss tax filing options, and whether insurance proceeds are taxable.

Q&A on Financial Decision-Making and Tax Implications After a Wildfire
March 24, 2021, 5:30 p.m.

Register for any of these events:

Emotional Well-Being

One of the key lessons learned from previous wildfire and flood disasters is that these events can have a significant impact on an individual’s well-being. And it impacts everyone differently and at different times, sometimes right away and sometimes months later.

Adults and children across the community who were impacted by the fires may experience normal stress response symptoms like mood swings, sleep disruption, and other stress reactions.

The Community Foundation of Boulder County has allocated a portion of the 2020 Fires Relief Fund to support the Wildfire Mental Health Program. WMHP offers up to $500 towards five individual therapy sessions (a maximum of $100 per session), or up to $875 towards five family therapy sessions (a maximum of $175 per session) and provides a pool of licensed providers from which to choose. Here are links to some of the press we’ve done to explain the program: