JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — After a report released Monday, some home owners who lost their homes in the Lower North Fork Fire have harsh words for the state’s investigation into what went wrong.
That fire burned more than 4,000 acres, destroyed more than two dozen homes and killed three people.
The governor’s report recommended major changes to the way controlled burns are handled.
It also recommends the state change its emergency response capabilities, and Colorado’s congressional delegation is now calling for a federal review.
Coe Meyer reflects what many homeowners are saying.
“If state workers set the fire under any circumstances, the state should be held accountable for the consequences,” says Meyers.
And he uses the term CYA to describe what he says is going on.
The report points blame at four factors, which, when combined, turned a prescribed burn into a ferocious wildfire.
“I think the report was kind of a CYA report,” said Meyer. “I’m 62 years old. I’m semi retired and this was my dream home.”
Meyer says the report misses the point.
“The operation was successful, but the patient died. That operation should have never taken place,” he says.
He says he doesn’t understand how a forestry crew missed what everyone else up there already knew, no matter what the prescribed burn forecast.
“We were told over and over again in the media, on the placards and posters up in the mountains. Common sense—the driest February and March in the history of Colorado,” Meyer says.
The governor’s panel recommended changes in prescribed burn protocols.
But Meyer and neighbors like Andy Hoover, who shot video of his own home burning, say the state started the fire that burned their homes and killed their neighbors, and the state should accept responsibility.
“If a surgeon has a perfect surgery but misses one thing technically, then there’s liability at that point for the surgeon if the patient doesn’t recover. I don’t see this being any different,” Meyer says.
“Get rid of this nonsense about limited liability to cover themselves,” says Andy Hoover. “Because their responsibility in my mind and most people’s minds is absolutely clear.”
We also talked to two state lawmakers from Jefferson County who both said the governor’s report is a good first step, but added that they are waiting for at least three other reports to be completed before drawing any conclusions about the fire.
Wednesday night there is public meeting scheduled at the Conifer Middle School at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the fire and other local issues.