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May 12, 2022

Boulder County updates building regulations to better protect against future wildfires

New requirements will be added to the Boulder County Building Code Amendments to the currently adopted 2015 International Codes

Boulder County, Colo. - At a public hearing on May 12, the Boulder County Commissioners approved an update to the ignition-resistant requirements for construction in Wildfire Zone 2, which comprises the Eastern area of unincorporated Boulder County. The update was prompted by recent wildfires, including the Marshall Fire.

Ron Flax, Deputy Director of Community Planning & Permitting/Chief Building Official, presented a proposal to update the ignition resistant construction requirements for construction in Wildfire Zone 2 (the Eastern area of Boulder County, view the Boulder County Wildfire Zones map). The approved changes guide the use of approved exterior materials and construction details for inclusion into the Boulder County Building Code Amendments to the currently adopted 2015 International Codes.

The Boulder County Building Code Amendments apply to unincorporated areas of Boulder County, not in incorporated cities or towns. The updates to the code will take effect on June 6, 2022. Subscribe to receive email or text updates to the Boulder County Building Code. For more information, contact the Building Safety & Inspection Services staff via the Ask a Building Official form, or call 303-441-3926.

“The Marshall Fire made clear that we need to do all that we can to better protect people and their homes from wildland fire throughout the county,” said Commissioner Matt Jones. “Homes built with ignition-resistant materials are more likely to survive a wildland fire and better protect residents and the firefighters who respond. Research shows that the financial cost of more ignition resistant building materials is essentially the same as other materials. Being more proactive will help reduce the damage and heartache from future fires.”

Board of County Commissioners Vice-Chair Claire Levy commented, “In my regular meetings with fire survivors from unincorporated Boulder County, they have strongly supported these requirements. They, better than anyone, know the emotional and financial toll of losing your home. This amendment won’t prevent a future firestorm of the magnitude of the Marshall Fire from creating destruction, but it will help prevent substantial losses from less severe wildfires. It’s incumbent on Boulder County to do everything within our power to prevent this kind of destruction in the future.”

Board of County Commissioners Chair Marta Loachamin added support for the code amendments and said, “The Commissioners would like to thank the county’s Community Planning & Permitting Department for their diligent work to quickly bring these changes into effect for the residents of unincorporated Boulder County. We are living the impact of an intense climate crisis and we need to respond with policies that will help protect our residents.”

The Board of Review held a public hearing on the proposed update on April 6, 2022, and recommended approval of the proposed changes to the Commissioners.

As part of this review process, a temporary pause on the issuance of building permits for new structures and certain additions in the unincorporated Boulder County areas of Wildfire Zone 2 not affected by the Marshall Fire is in effect through June 6, 2022. This pause does not apply to property owners who are building new structures and certain additions, so long as they commit to rebuild to the requirements adopted as Appendix A of Article 19-500 of the Boulder County Land Use Code.