Another report about Lower North Fork Fire offers recommendations

Lower North Fork Fire
Lower North Fork Fire. Photo provided by Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office

A special commission created by the Colorado General Assembly to investigate the Lower North Fork fire has released their report. The fire originated from an escaped prescribed fire southwest of Denver on March 26, 2012. It burned 4,140 acres and killed three local residents at their homes. The report offers a number of recommendations but did not place blame.

This is the second report about the fire. The first, released in April, 2012, was conducted by Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources. That 152-page report (a very large 11.8 MB file) only addressed the management of the prescribed fire, and did not cover the suppression of the wildfire, the three fatalities, or the controversial evacuation procedures during the wildfire.

The charter of the commission  which produced the second report was to investigate the following:

  • causes of the wildfire;
  • the impact of the wildfire on the affected community;
  • the loss of life and financial devastation incurred by the community;
  • the loss of confidence by the community in the response to the emergency by
  • governmental bodies at all levels; and
  • measures to prevent the occurrence of a similar tragedy

Their recommendations were on the following topics:

  1. Coordination among fire districts
  2. Raising the liability cap
  3. Wildland-urban interface and local land use egulations
  4. Funding for the federal FLAME Act (which is not fully funded by Congress)
  5. 911 capabilities
  6. A consistent revenue source for wildfire suppression
  7. Air emission permits
  8. Funding for the SWIFT Program

The Commission also recommends that four bills be introduced in the Colorado General Assembly:

  • Prescribed Burn Program in the Division of Fire Prevention and Control
  • Wildfire Matters Review Committee
  • Extend Wildfire Mitigation Financial Incentives
  • All-hazards Resource Mobilization and Reimbursement

You can read the entire report HERE.


Thanks go out to Gary

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

5 thoughts on “Another report about Lower North Fork Fire offers recommendations”

  1. I believe that is true. No ground contact, no flight.

    JP, if you are a Colorado resident, we need to get some pressure on the legislature to overhaul the system. Write to your rep. I agree that CALFIRE is a good model but so far, there is no support in the legislature to undertake a similar program. I have no idea how many more lives and property we have to lose before the state legislature decides to really take action on the problem.

    There is a lot to read between the lines of the Commission’s recommendations if you are acquainted with Colorado’s problems. At least the problem is getting some visibility.

  2. PS. A friend on the W slope told me they had to have a ground contact before airtankers can respond….is this true?

  3. Having worked in Colorado I know the USFS has multiple engines on each forest yet most of the time only one is dispatched. Having the county sheriff responsible for fire has made the state of Colorado inconsistent in wildfire response. Each county has its own protocols, rsources, vfd’s……It’s time for an overhaul of the system. What I find even more crazy is the jurisdictional lines in the sand, needing permission to fight fire on adjacent lands. What about closest resources? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There is already a model of how things can work. Colorado deserves better. Spend money up front or later, you’re going to spend it anyway. Let’s just spend it wiser.

  4. OK JP, who do we start writing to in order to make it happen? It does appear that some of our senators and state legislators are taking an interest.

    In the case of Colorado, you can’t dispatch what you don’t have. Last season, Colorado had 2 to 3 SEATS under contract. The Guard helos from Buckley AFB are at best second day assets [provided the governor acts quickly]. The C-130 MAFFS at Peterson AFB are USAF reserve and have to watch things burn until all other assets are tapped out. With the few Federal air tanker assets, requesting a federal assist for air IA is really not likely to happen. As far as ground assets go, most of Colorado’s capability comes from our volunteer fire protection districts. The equipment they have depends on county property taxes [at a low ebb since the recession]. Last obstacle, initial dispatch is the responsibility of our individual county sheriffs.

    Where do we start? I’m ready to help.


  5. It is time for Region 2 to have a comprehensive and aggressive initial attack protocol. Dispatching 1-2 type 6 engines and no aircraft to a fire start is not aggressive IA. The Region does not even recognize strike teams, everything is ordered and dispatched in single increments. Time to look at dispatch levels comensurate with…..dare I say…….California.


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