The Lower North Fork Fire in Colorado, just west of Denver over a year ago, caused untold physical damage and killed 3 people. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and FEMA was slow to act on behalf of the victims and over a year later FEMA aid has been denied for the victims and the State of Colorado has not only denied aid to the victims, but remarkably have thrown the victims into court… Victims that have done nothing wrong.
March 26 2012 – A prescribed burn left unattended by the Colorado State Forest Service burns 4600 acres destroys 22 homes and kills 3 people
In the days that follow…
- The State requests FEMA funding to pay the State’s firefightings costs. These grants do not provide assistance to individual home or business owners and do not cover other infrastructure damage caused by the fire. The victims are never granted one penny in FEMA or State aid. Their only aid and support is from kind and caring neighbors, local charities and businesses.
- A few days after the fire victims meet with the Colorado Governor Hickenlooper after he tours the damage and ask him to do the right thing and approve aid for the victims. He tells them the agency that caused the tragedy is not under his jurisdiction.
- The head of the Colorado State Forest Service, that by neglect caused the fire, publicly apologizes for having caused it.
- There is an investigation into the cause of the fire headed by a sister agency in the neighboring State of Wyoming. They determine that proper procedures were not followed however, found no blame.
- Victims are told there will be no State aid and FEMA aid was denied because State aid has not been exhausted.
- The victims are forced to beg for aid in the press, each time reliving their painful tragedy over and over. Nothing happens for several months and the victims through the media continue to apply pressure on the Governor and Legislature to do something.
- 3 months later, and months of work while being homeless, the victims successfully get 2 bills passed. One that promises an investigation into the disaster by a State Commission and the other allowing “the possibility” of aid/claims through the State Claims Board. The Governor signs the bills with the victims as a backdrop promising quick aid with extensive positive media coverage. The public now believes that the State has finally stepped up and the victims are now getting help.
- Victims are instructed to file notices of claim with the State in order to get aid. Victims spend days/hours compiling their claims to conform to according to government bureaucracy guidelines.
- 1 month later the victims are shocked as they are dragged into court by the State Attorney General,and forced to join a lawsuit filed by insurance companies and utilities against their will; blatantly disregarding the intent of the bills for quick aid passed just a month before. Victims are now told the process will not be quick and will take years, if at all.
- Victims are now forced to hire lawyers to protect themselves against the State incurring great expense while trying to rebuild their lives.
- The victims testify at the six State Commission hearings over a period of 4 months. The State Commission that was chartered to investigate the fire claims it does not have the resources to do so and the victims are forced to conduct their own investigation using public records. They present their finding to the commission that clearly shows neglect on the part of the State. The commissioners never call any employees of the State agency to testify that admittedly caused the fire citing concerns for State liability. In the end… the commission… does nothing.
- 6-12 months after the fire none of the homes destroyed by the fire have been rebuilt and many never will. There is still no aid or process for claims as the State AG and his team of lawyers use legal maneuvering to delay in the court system.
- 1 year after the fire the media with the victims again question the State about aid and lack of accountability. The State AG responds by blaming the victims.
- A small group of victims are granted a private meeting with Governor Hickenlooper. He listens to their concerns and takes notes in a room full of lawyers, but says nothing.
- The Governor and State Legislators continue to watch the State AG and his lawyers legal shenanigans… and do nothing. FEMA has done nothing.
15 months after the disaster; There is still no State or Federal aid for the victims. The victims have endured countless interviews in the media and court appearances. They honestly never want to see a television camera again. They are weary of driving to the State Capitol. They are weary of being dragged into Court. Victims were required to create stacks of paperwork to try and get aid and are constantly being blind sided by legal maneuvering of the State AG.
This is wrong.
We are the victims of the Lower North Fork Fire.
We did nothing wrong.
Why are we treated as enemies of the State of Colorado?