Unexpected wildfires can spread quickly and devastate communities. In December 2021, the Marshall fire in Boulder County, Colo., destroyed approximately 1,000 homes and businesses in Superior, Louisville and unincorporated Boulder County. To guide families affected by the fire with the home building process, members of the Home Builders Association of Metro Denver (HBA) participated in the Boulder County Build Expo in Louisville earlier this year.
Immediately after the fire, the HBA assembled a task force and began discussing ways to educate consumers about the home building process. The HBA needed to position itself as a go-to resource for home building information, especially since misinformation about rebuilding was spreading to residents through social media, said Ted Leighty, CEO of the HBA of Metro Denver.
The HBA worked with Jonathan Falk, NAHB’s disaster relief field specialist, to develop educational materials for community members. In addition, the HBA of Metro Denver created a Marshall fire resources hub on their website filled with municipal resources, a cost estimates explainer, FAQs and links to insurance claims assistance.
As the HBA begin disseminating information to the community, a local realtor extended an invitation to the HBA to participate in a consumer education event focused on rebuilding. The timing was fortuitous, says Leighty. "We knew that we needed to have some kind of expo or consumer-engaging event to help our community understand the home-building process and let them know we have builders in the area that have the capacity to help them rebuild."
The HBA task force reached out to its government and municipal partners and encouraged them to participate. Several companies became members of the HBA so they could participate in the event.
During the Boulder County Build Expo, 11 HBA builder members provided information and answered questions about the home-building process. They shared their capabilities to build, timelines and any available home plans or models.
"Everybody was happy to take part in the expo, to provide answers and counsel the fire families," said Leighty.
Most questions from the community were about costs. During a time of uncertainty about material costs, members took the time to explain the market conditions and how that may impact the cost of building a home.
Moving forward, the task force plans to develop issue specific resources, such as how the local permitting process works or what a construction schedule is comprised of, and partner with localities on consumer outreach initiatives.
Leighty advises other HBAs faced with an unexpected natural disaster to reach out to the Federation for support.
"NAHB has a lot of resources that can be adapted to any situation. As an HBA, be the arbiter of good, accurate information and educate the community on how to be weary of fly-by-night contractors."