Kyle Clark 9News
JEFFERSON COUNTY – Six months to the day that a Colorado Forest Service prescribed burn raced out of control killing three people and claiming 23 homes, people impacted by the fire are condemning the state’s response.
They say they have received no state aid to help them clear burned trees from their properties and get on with the business of rebuilding their homes and lives.
“It’s terrible that we’ve been put in this situation where we’re basically begging to have the state do what they should have done six months ago,” said Tom Scanlon, who lost his house. “It’s been six months and we have absolutely nothing.”
A common refrain is the lack of accountability by state leaders.
“If anybody else had done this, they would be in jail and there’d be all kinds of people helping us,” Scanlan said.
“We’re trying to take anyone for a ride, but they should have antied up somehow already,” said Andy Hoover, whose home burned in the fire.
“You know, if I go down to the Capitol and leave a bunch of burnt sticks down there, they’ll write me a ticket for littering,” Hoover said. “I’ll refuse the ticket and countersue them for littering my place.”
They decry the state’s commission formed to investigate the fire as lacking focus and a will to truly investigate.
“Talk is cheap and I knew we’d hear a lot of cheap talk,” Hoover said. “I think it was a waste of time and money. It was a bunch of political dancing.”
State Representative Cheri Gerou, a Republican from Evergreen who represents the area, sat on the commission. She doesn’t disagree.
“This is the most breathtaking example of how the system doesn’t work,” Gerou said. “I felt ashamed of the way the state is handling this situation.”
“We know the state caused the fire. It was a controlled burn that was started by the state. So why people are not willing to talk about that openly, I just don’t understand,” Gerou said.
The commission finished its work this week with several recommendations for the legislature, but it did not endorse several proposals initiated by the fire victims and introduced by Gerou.
Gerou and the victims are upset the state is lumping the families’ claims in with those of insurance companies and businesses. Victims have been told it will be many months, if not years, before they see compensation.
“We don’t have immunity. The government does. So they hold all the cards. And we’re left holding the bag,” said Scott Appel, whose wife Ann was killed in the fire.
“If the Colorado state government can do this to us, they can do it to you,” Appel said.
Neighbors including Appel, Scanlan and Hoover are documenting what they have learned about the origin of the fire and their community’s attempt to recover on a website, http://lnff.info/
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