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Lower North Fork Fire Panel Releases Final Report

DENVER (AP) — A panel that reviewed the deadly Lower North Fork Fire, which grew from a prescribed burn on state land in March, says it’s time to explore raising a cap on state liability.

The fire in Jefferson County, west of Denver, destroyed or damaged 23 homes and left three people dead. It also caused about $11 million in damage.

State law gives limited immunity to government agencies and caps total damage recoveries from the state at $600,000 from any single event, regardless of how many people were affected.

Colorado legislators last year passed a bill allowing victims of the Lower North Fork Fire to seek compensation beyond the $600,000 cap, but the Lower North Fork Wildfire Commission said in a December report that the tragedy of the March wildfire illustrates the cap is inadequate.

“While governmental entities must protect their budgets from being overly exposed to private claims for damages, given that many incidents of negligence for which immunity has been waived have the potential to injure many people, the commission believes it is time to explore raising the liability cap,” it said in its report.

The commission also made other suggestions, such as a review of automated calling systems for alerting residents of evacuations.

The panel also proposed legislation that would require the adoption of standards for prescribed burns, create a committee to review state policies on wildfire prevention and mitigation, extend financial incentives for wildfire mitigation, and require the development of a statewide resource mobilization plan.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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