Changes Recommended to Colo. Wildfire Response

In an effort to solve communication problems among emergency crews, the Governor is recommending that future wildfires will be controlled of the Department of Public Safety.


7NEWS continues to stay in contact with residents directly impacted by the fire. Many residents want to know if the Governor is going to increase the amount the state is liable to pay victims.

"You're talking about the compensation cap of $600,000; that would have to be changed legislatively, I don't have that power," said Hickenlooper.

When pressed about his opinion, he suggested it might not be in the state's best interest based on what it would cost taxpayers.

"If you change it for one incident, no matter how difficult -- and certainly this is one of the most difficult natural disasters we've seen -- you change it for everyone, and the cost to the state would probably be, I don't know if you added up all the insurance, it would be many many tens of millions of dollars," said Hickenlooper.

In 1987, a Colorado Department of Transportation crew loosened a boulder on Berthoud Pass. That boulder rolled down a hill and hit a bus, killing nine.

Then-Gov. Roy Romer called for the legislature to increase the state liability limit at the time, which was $400,000.

"I'm happy to go talk to lawyers about it and maybe there's something there that Gov. Romer knew better than I did," said Hickenlooper. "If that is a flood gate that is opened to all kinds of other claims and all kinds of other natural disasters, is that the prerogative of the Governor to make that decision by themselves? Or is that really something that the legislature should be making?"

A resident who lost their home in the fire asked 7NEWS to ask the governor the following question:

If the governor were in their shoes and lost his home, would he want the leader of the state to increase the amount available to victims?

"If my home had been burned would I want the cap raised? You know, I don't know. If I was insured, would I want the state to undergo that additional liability? I don't know -- probably not. It's hard to talk about something like that if you're not in the situation," said Hickenlooper.

No Colorado State Forest Service Employee Disciplined

Since CSU is still in control of the Colorado State Forest Service, 7NEWS asked CSU president Tony Frank if anyone associated with the prescribed fire had been disciplined.

"There have been no administrative changes -- no disciplinary actions taken. The U.S. Forest Service review of the prescribed burn, I think, was fairly clear about causative factors in that burn," said Frank.

7NEWS reporter Amanda Kost asked if no one was disciplined because that would reveal fault and could open up the state additional lawsuits.

"No, that has not factored into our thinking at all. What factored into our thinking was the result of the U.S. Forest Service review team's report," said Frank.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office conducted an investigation into the cause and origin of the fire and found no criminal wrongdoing.

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