Basalt beefs up ‘fire-wise’ regulations as part of Lake Christine Fire legacy |

Basalt beefs up ‘fire-wise’ regulations as part of Lake Christine Fire legacy

This house under construction in Willits incorporated metal and concrete on the exterior walls. The Basalt building department said it is a good example of fire-wise construction.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

The town of Basalt wants the legacy of the Lake Christine Fire to be positive.

Town Council on Tuesday night approved a second and final reading of an ordinance that beefs up the building code for new residences to provide protection from wildfires.

“The Lake Christine Fire changed how the town and the Roaring Fork Fire Authority view fire threats and what the town should do to reduce the threat of fires and how they spread,” said a memo from the town government staff to council. The fire department has determined that all of Basalt is in a “fire hazard area.”

Town Manager Ryan Mahoney said the town is adopting several “common sense” concepts.

“You don’t want to have a wooden fence against a structure, for example,” he said.

A recent fire in Colorado Springs showed how fire can spread to homes after ember storms set fire to fences. The new building code provision will require a 36-inch break between the wooden fence and home. The gap can be filled with a metal section or materials that aren’t flammable.

An “informal committee” of fire department officials, town staffers and attorneys proposed modifications to five chapters of the town building code. The goal, Mahoney said, was to make new residential construction more “fire-wise” or “hardened.”

The modifications address everything from materials used for decks and exterior walls to covers for gutters.

In a community meeting early this month on the proposed changes, fire marshal John Mele said ongoing drought and devastation from wildfires is forcing more cities, towns and counties in Colorado to modify building codes, including those in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“It’s not just a forest health problem. It’s a structure problem too,” Mele said.

The various modifications that were proposed were designed to prevent embers from a wildfire from infiltrating a home.

“You have to think like an ember here,” Mele said.

The beefed-up building code can result in more costly construction, but savings in the long haul for homeowners. The rules will not be applied to existing structures.

“It’s a code that’s built for the future. It’s not retroactive,” Mele said.

The council approved the ordinance 7-0. The new rules will be in effect Sept. 17.

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