Official: prescribed burn likely to blame; investigation under way

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Lower North Fork Fire. March 27, 2012.

Lower North Fork Fire. March 27, 2012.

CONIFER, Colo. – It’s called a “slop-over” and investigators want to know how it happened.

Authorities believe the Lower North Fork Fire in southwest Jefferson County started last week as a prescribed burn conducted by the Colorado State Forest Service in the area of South Platte River Road and Foxton Road.

On Monday, embers flared and -what may have been a controlled fire- quickly grew out-of-control.

With two people dead and at least two dozen homes damaged or destroyed to-date, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jacki Kelley says a full-scale investigation is under way.

“We’re going to look at why that decision (to initiate a prescribed burn) was made,” she said Tuesday. “This February was so wet…we had more snow than we’ve had on record. And then March got very dry and warm and windy…and that’s a recipe for disaster.”

Kelley says typically March is a good time of year to conduct prescribed burns.

“If the conditions are right, it’s smart to try and do them so we can prevent fires.”

Kelley says the Colorado Bureau of Investigation is assisting the Sheriff’s Office with its probe.