First conclusions revealed from governor’s wildfire investigation

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — We’re getting the first clues Friday about what will come out of a special governor’s investigation into the Lower North Fork Fire.

FOX31 Denver learned not just the emergency notification system, but both federal and state policies on prescribed burns could change.

Failures on both fronts led to the ultimate breakdowns that resulted in the fire and the disaster that killed 3 people and damaged or destroyed more than two dozen homes.

Amid the confusion, miscommunication and loss of life, they must determine how to avoid a similar tragedy.

Those are the first findings of the Jefferson County 911 Emergency Notification Authority investigation.

Although no one would go on camera, the authority says problems with the reverse notification system from provider First Call have been identified and corrected.

But more importantly they also determined cell phone service and even radio frequencies used by emergency responders all broke down during the crisis.

And crews and families scrambled to deal with the ferocious, unpredictably fast moving fire.

Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman says the governor’s special investigative panel which we’ve now learned will be released to lawmakers on Monday should impact both federal and state policies.

“I think we have a lot to learn from this tragedy, everything from how to do a controlled burn properly to the need for redundant communications systems,” Coffman says.

The Jeffco 911 Authority says it’s ordering studies of redundant communications, installation of emergency land lines and other options for high terrain areas.

Andy Hoover lost his home in the wildfire. “One can argue soundly that it was avoidable,” he says.

But homeowners like Hoover and Scott Appel, who lost his wife Ann in the fire, want transparency before any final conclusions.

“None of us knows exactly what to do now, you can’t until you know what happened and with all the fiction going on, who knows what happened,” Hoover says.

“I’m hoping that this review process will help us to insure that to the best of our ability that this never happens again,” Coffman says.

None of the fire or law enforcement agencies directly involved would speak on camera Friday, saying they are waiting until results of the investigations are completed.

After lawmakers are briefed on the governor’s panel findings Monday, we expect a news conference to take place.

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