Lower North Fork Fire commission: ‘We will not be determining fault, negligence’

Lower North Fork Fire commission: ‘We will not be determining fault, negligence’

Denver 7 News
  • By: Deb Stanley
  • By: Amanda Kost

DENVER – The chair of the commission investigating the Lower North Fork Fire said the group will not be determining fault or negligence.

“This commission was not set up to find fault,” said State Senator Ellen Roberts. “This is not a courtroom.”

However, according to the House Bill 1352 , which created the Lower North Fork Fire Commission, the commission was supposed “to investigate the causes of the wildfire and to make recommendations for legislative or other action that would prevent the occurrence of a similar tragedy.”

“The main thing the commission was supposed to do was investigate the cause of the wildfire. Has it?” asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.

“Not in my mind, no it hasn’t. There haven’t been any direct answers to any of the direct questions by any of the wildfire victims,” said State Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen.

Gerou sponsored the bill that created the commission which she sits on.

“The proceedings of the commission have not fulfilled the requirements of House Bill 1352 and have not satisfied, I believe, the intent of the legislation,” said Gerou. “I’m really uncomfortable with the way the commission’s gone forward. I don’t think that they’ve been honest with the victims.”

The group is holding its final meeting on Tuesday.

They are discussing draft bills that could be presented during the 2013 legislative session, but fire victims are not happy.

“You are making a mockery of the investigation,” Andy Hoover told the commission. “You, ladies and gentleman, are here because of a bill that was passed…that charges you with investigating.  I think that you are avoiding your charge.”

Hoover lost his home in the fire.

So far, two bills have been blocked by the commission. One would have increased the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act maximum amount for injury from $600,000 to $1,200,000. The other would have required development of county land regulations for wildfires.

Deputy Attorney General David Blake said at least 132 claims have been filed. Total damages are in excess of $20 million.

The Lower North Fork fire killed three people; Sam and Linda Lucas and Ann Appel. It charred 4,140 acres and destroyed 22 homes.

The March fire started days after a Colorado State Forest Service prescribed burn.

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