State republicans look into helping wildfire victims

DENVER — Colorado may not be legally liable for the Damage caused by the Lower North Fork Fire. But a group of House Republicans says the state has a duty to do right by the fire victims.

Rep. Cheri Gerou, (R-Jefferson County) says, “They’re angry, they’re devastated and mostly they’re disappointed.  They were hoping to see more from the State.”

Republicans want to set up a commission to review claims by those who lost homes of loved ones in the fire.

They say the state should do what it can to help pay for gaps not covered by insurance.  Rep. Bob Gardner, (R-El Paso County) says, “We can’t pay out money we don’t have, but we’re not going to stand behind a cloak of governmental immunity for something that apparently was the fault of the State.”

Republicans say they still have to work out the details, but the point would be to compensate homeowners and not insurance companies.

Speaker Frank McNulty, (R-Highlands Ranch) says the Governor is “falling far short of what is called for in this situation.”

Monday, Governor Hickenlooper resisted compensating fire victims, saying that overriding the state’s liability cap could set a costly precedent.

But legal expert David Beller says not so. He says, “I don’t believe it opens the state up for any other liability issues.” He predicts the legislation will be very narrowly written to address only this fire and will specifically mention it is not invalidating the liability cap for other matters.

He says, “The goal of this legislation is to make the homeowners whole, to fix the wrong that the state did to the homeowner.

Coe Meyer, who lost everything in the fire, applauds the Republican proposal.  He says he has been “hugely disappointed” in the Governor. And adds he wants to avoid the legal process and hopes the state steps up and does the right thing.

Democrats say they look forward to working with Republicans on this issue, and complain they were not aware it was even under discussion.