911 calls reveal panic, misinformation as Lower North Fork Fire spread
CONIFER, Colo. — Just moments before he and his wife perished in the Lower North Fork Fire, Sam Lucas was told by a 911 operator the wildfire was simply a prescribed burn.
“This is Sam Lucas. We live up in the foothills and we just got home and it looks like there’s a fire right at the foot of Cathedral Spires,” Lucas tells the emergency dispatcher in an audio recording released Tuesday.
“That is a controlled burn,” the dispatcher interjects, cutting off Lucas mid-sentence. “The Forest Service is out there on scene with that.”
Lucas: “We’ve got 79 mile an hour winds up here. And they’ve got a controlled burn?”
Lucas: “Oh, wonderful. Thank you.’
Dispatcher: “Uh huh. Bye.”
The bodies of Sam Lucas and his wife, Moaneti, were found at the charred remains of their home on Keuhster Road the following day.
Ann Appel, another Keuhster Road resident, also died in the fire.
Other 911 callers were given more detailed information. In several cases, dispatchers told concerned residents the fire was originally a prescribed burn that had spread out-of-control.
Authorities are investigating the timeline of events, including when emergency evacuation notices were issued, to determine if the Lucases and Ann Appel were given adequate time to flee their homes.