Governor John Hickenlooper toured the Lower North Fork Fire damage area Thursday afternoon via helicopter. (CREDIT: Tom Cole/9NEWS)
In the wake of the deadly Lower North Fork Fire in Jefferson County, Hickenlooper wants the legislature to move those resources to the Department of Public Safety.
The fire began as a prescribed burn set on March 22 by the Colorado State Forest Service, but got out of control on March 26 near Conifer. It destroyed or damaged 27 homes and killed three people.
The governor says removing the wildfire functions from the Colorado State Forest Service at CSU provides a unified command structure that will help the state handle prescribed burns and respond to wildfires. The agency currently reports to academic officials at CSU and not state emergency officials. Appearing at the governor's side at a Monday press conference, CSU President Tony Frank said the university supports the decision.
9Wants to Know asked if the agency shift truly solves a problem that was seen at the Lower North Fork Fire.
"This, what we're talking about here, where we're just talking about the structure of how we deal with prescribed fires and response to wildfires, we just want to have it in one place, with an agency that is used to deal with emergencies where minutes matter," Hickenlooper said. "There were [problems], there were several. There were a number of different problems, right? So it wasn't the only problem but it certainly was an issue that we thought needed to be addressed."
Hickenlooper says changes in prescribed burn procedures may come down the line when a state review of protocols is complete.
He repeatedly declined to say whether the state should lift or waive its liability cap, which will divide a maximum of $600,000 between dozens of fire victims who lost millions.
"I think, you're not a single person standing here who has the freedom of speaking their opinion. You've got to look at what is best for the state. And the issues surrounding this are if that is a floodgate that is opened to all kinds of claims and all kinds of other natural disasters, is that the prerogative of the governor to make that decision by themselves or is that a decision that the legislature should be making?" Hickenlooper said.
Jefferson County investigators found no criminal wrongdoing in the origin of the fire.
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)