DENVER (CBS4) – It started as a prescribed burn, but when it got out of control the Lower North Fork Fire destroyed 23 homes and killed three people. Now a commission is looking at what went wrong.
The fire started March 26 and burned 4,140 acres in Jefferson County, causing an estimated $11 million in damages. The fire raised plenty of questions about controlled burns.
Residents affected by the fire and fire experts talked with the commission Monday morning. The goal of the Lower North Fork Fire Commission is to fact find, and then make a recommendation on how to prevent another fire like it from happening again.
The meeting focused on public safety and the emergency alert system. There was also a lot of talk about the dry conditions in Colorado and the fire outlook for the state.
The first presentation was given by the Nature Conservancy. It had a large emphasis on all the fire fuel such as dry brush and grass and how to manage all of it. Clearing such fire fuels and thinning forests were mentioned, but the case was also made that prescribed burns are the best way to go. It’s a tough sell since that’s what caused the Lower North Fork Fire.
Following the blaze Gov. John Hickenlooper banned prescribed burns, but the Nature Conservancy says they want to bring them back.
“Effective treatments require a mix of tools to ensure maximum benefit,” Mike Babler with the Nature Conservancy told the commission. “We understand state agencies are under a prescribed fire ban. We hope they will resume using fire as a tool in the future.”
The commission also toured the burn area Monday afternoon.
Rocco Snart, the fire safety officer assigned to the prescribed burn, testified to the panel of lawmakers with questions about fire behavior.
“You have a certain limited window that you have really viable and good information,” Snart said.
The commission is scheduled to reveal the details of their three-month investigation Monday evening at Conifer High School to residents from the Lower North Fork Fire.
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