CONIFER, Colo. – A firefighter with the Inter-Canyon Fire/Rescue district personally warned Sam Lucas to evacuate his home just moments before the Lower North Fork Fire swept through their neighborhood, killing him and his wife, Moaneti, authorities revealed Monday.
According to fire district spokesman Daniel Hatlestad, the firefighter traveled up the driveway of the Lucas home on Kuehster Road between 4:20 and 4:30 p.m. on Monday, March 26 - roughly ten minutes before emergency notification calls were issued.
“(The firefighter) startled Mr. Lucas as Mr. Lucas was loading possessions into a vehicle in the driveway,” Hatlestad said. “The firefighter told Mr. Lucas “It’s time to go.” Mr Lucas responded with a remark regarding the home’s fire suppression system. The firefighter responded that information on the fire suppression system was available to responding firefighters.”
After Sam Lucas repeated a comment regarding his home’s fire suppression system, the firefighter replied “Right now you need to get out of here,” according to Hatlestad. “The firefighter then left the Lucas residence to alert other homeowners.”
The bodies of Sam and Moaneti Lucas were found among the charred remains of their home the next day.
Authorities also revealed Monday that shortly after his conversation with Sam Lucas, that same firefighter also visited the home of Ann Appel, 51, on Broadview Circle, only to find her driveway chained off.
“Following standard wildland safety procedures the firefighter did not attempt to enter the area,” said Hatlestad. “While there was smoke in the area, the fire had not yet reached Broadview Circle. The firefighter then moved on to other homes to advise residents to evacuate.”
Appel’s remains were found several days later. Her home was also destroyed.
Due to a geocoding glitch with the emergency alert system, authorities say she never received an emergency notification call.
The Lower North Fork Fire burned 4,140 acres and destroyed 27 homes in southwest Jefferson County.