(Sept. 25) – Republican members of the Lower North Fork Fire Commission voted today to oppose a proposal by Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) to increase the sum of money available to victims of the Lower North Fork fire.
The blaze happened in March when a Colorado Forest Service prescribed burn went out of control, destroying two dozen Jefferson County homes and killing two people.
Rep. Levy told the commission that the state’s $600,000 cap on payouts under the Colorado Government Immunity Act was “frankly ridiculous in this day and age,” and proposed to double the cap to $1.2 million.
But Rep. Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen), in whose district the Lower North Fork fire burned, joined with the commission chairwoman, Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango), in opposing the measure. Sen. Jeanne Nicholson (D-Black Hawk) supported Rep. Levy’s proposal, meaning it failed on a 2-2 tie (a fifth commission member, Department of Public Safety Director Jim Davis, is nonvoting).
Despite the commission’s failure to endorse the proposal, it can still be brought to the legislature as a bill next year by Rep. Levy acting on her own. She promised to bring the bill and said she would consider whether to offer another measure – also rejected by the Republicans today — to require counties in the wildland-urban interface zone to adopt building-code and fire-mitigation standards to reduce the threat of wildfire.
“We can’t have another million people moving into this state by the year 2020 and not have these minimum standards in place,” Rep. Levy told the commission.