GOP Representatives announce bill to investigate Lower North Fork Fire, compensate victims

Apr. 24, 2012

DENVER—The state of Colorado will step up and take responsibility for its mistakes.


That’s the message that state Reps. Bob Gardner and Cheri Gerou want the people of Colorado to know after a controlled-burn by the Colorado Forest Service ignited parts of Jefferson County, costing three Coloradans their lives and destroying nearly two-dozen homes.


“The Lower North Fork Fire was a terrible accident that no one wanted.  However, we need to recognize that the fire, which was started by the state, has devastated the lives of so many families in Jefferson County,” Gerou, who represents the area, said.  “These families and individuals deserve to be heard and be compensated for their losses.”


Gerou, R-Evergreen, and Gardner are sponsoring a bill that will be introduced later this week, establishing the Lower North Fork Fire Commission.  The commission will establish a hearing process in order investigate the events surrounding the fire, and to pay out claims to those who lost their homes and loved ones in the Lower North Fork Fire.


Under the Colorado Government Immunity Act, the state’s combined claim is capped at $600,000. That is $600,000 that must be divided amongst hundreds of victims.


“Our goal is to assist those Coloradans who lost so much due to the state’s apparent actions,” said Gardner, R-Colorado Springs.  “If a private company’s controlled fire-burn went out of control due to its negligence, destroying homes and killing individuals, they would be held liable.  The state should not hide behind governmental immunity to avoid responsibility.”


The bill will establish the composition of the commission.


“The commission will recommend payment of claims on a fair and equitable basis,” Gardner added. “There will be limits on attorney’s fees and repayment of noneconomic damages.  We simply want to ensure that these families and individuals are fairly compensated for their losses.”


The measure, which is being drafted, is expected to be introduced later this week.