Spokane, Wash. — Spokane-area legislators, Reps. Mike Volz and Suzanne Schmidt, are set to introduce legislation during the 2024 legislative session aimed at easing the burden on fire victims seeking to rebuild their homes after wildfires.
The proposed bill by the two state representatives, whose districts include areas affected by the Gray Fire and Oregon Road Fire, seeks to address the challenges faced by residents who have lost their homes. New state building regulations, imposed this year, have translated into increased time and costs for rebuilding. In many instances, these added expenses are not covered by insurance policies.
Rep. Volz, from the 6th Legislative District, stated, “Rebuilding and recovery is painful enough without the addition of burdensome regulations that were adopted this summer, right before the fires that devastated many parts of Spokane County. There are many homeowners out there whose insurance was based on regulations in place as of January 1, 2023. The new regulations imposed already this year by the state building code council – and those that may yet be imposed before the end of the year – potentially add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of rebuilding. I think giving a break to those who have lost everything in the recent wildfires is the least we can do at the state level and I urge my colleagues across the aisle to support this commonsense, much-needed proposal.”
The bill put forth by Schmidt and Volz would pertain to properties damaged during the 2023 wildfires, allowing victims to rebuild according to the building codes in effect on January 1, 2023. Property owners applying for building permits by June 20, 2025, would be eligible under this legislation.
Schmidt, representing the 4th Legislative District, emphasized the need for certainty for homeowners trying to rebuild. She said, “No one is truly prepared for the kind of devastation we saw around the Elk and West Plains communities. But then again, no one is prepared for the devastation after the devastation. Finding out you can’t afford to rebuild in a timely manner because of new, excessive state regulations is a gut punch fire victims cannot afford.”
The legislators are finalizing the draft of the legislation and anticipate introducing it on the first day of the 2024 legislative session, which commences on Monday, January 8. They also expect support in the Washington State Senate, as their colleagues, Sen. Jeff Holy and Sen. Mike Padden, have been actively addressing the issue.