The following is a statement sent to 4 On Your Side Investigator Rick Sallinger from the Colorado State Forest Service Regarding the prior prescribed burn in Lower North Fork:
Preliminary reports indicate that on the fourth day of mop-up operations, following a prescribed burn, extremely strong wind appears to have reignited the fire by fanning embers and blowing them into an unburned area outside the containment line. Crews patrolling the area immediately began fighting the fire.
Last Wednesday (3/21), Colorado State Forest Service initiated a controlled burn on Denver Water Board property. The 35-acre prescribed burn was part of ongoing fuels management activities in the Lower North Fork area as part of a service agreement with Denver Water. On Wednesday, March 21, crews built a containment line around the fire area. The actual prescribed fire was carried out and completed on Thursday, with mop-up operations beginning on Friday.
On Monday afternoon (3/26), during the fourth day of mop-up work, a patrol crew reported windy conditions, but no smoke or fire activity as they circled the burn area several times. The crew reported a sudden, significant increase in wind and then reported seeing blowing embers carried across the containment line, over a road, and into unburned fuels. The crew immediately requested additional resources and began aggressively fighting the fire.
As the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office further investigates the cause of the current wildfire, Colorado State Forest Service will also be conducting a simultaneous review of the prescribed burn. Conducting a prescribed burn involves a considerable amount of planning, research and oversight by fire professionals who carefully consider current and future weather forecasts, fuel conditions, and other factors before initiating a prescribed burn. On preliminary review CSFS officials say fire crews followed all procedures and safety protocols in conducting the prescribed burn. An independent panel will now fully review the prescribed burn and the procedures surrounding it.
Joseph A. Duda
Deputy State Forester
Colorado State Forest Service