Fire Victim Family: Ann Appel Never Got Reverse Notification

Family Tells 7NEWS They Believe Appel Home In Flames Before First Reverse Notification Was Sent

The third victim of the Lower North Fork Fire called 911 at 2:34 p.m. according to family members.

Ann Appel called to report the fire and was told that crews were on the way.

DISPATCH: "Jefferson County 911, what are you reporting?"

ANN APPEL: "A fire."

DISPATCH: "Where at?"

APPEL: "It's down along Foxton, by the Platte River."

DISPATCH: "OK, they do have crews on the way down there."

APPEL: "OK. It's blowing smoke right over my house."

DISPATCH: "Yeah, it's about 5 acres and growing, so they've got crews on the way."

APPEL: "OK. Thank you."

DISPATCH: "You're welcome."

APPEL: "Bye."

According to the Appel family, they were told the first reverse notification call was sent at 5:05 p.m., but that an address error caused the Appel family to not receive a reverse notification call. They said they have reviewed time-stamped home video taken by evacuees that leads them to believe that part of the Appel property was engulfed in flames by about 5 p.m.

7NEWS reviewed hundreds of 911 calls to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office reporting the Lower North Fork Fire. Dispatchers told the initial callers that crews were on the scene of a prescribed burn that became out of control.

On Monday, 7NEWS identified the fifth 911 caller as Sam Lucas, who died in the fire with his wife Linda.

DISPATCH: "JeffCo 911."

LUCAS:: "Yes, this is Sam Lucas, we live up in the foothills and we just got home and looks like there's a fire right at the foot of Cathedral Spires…"

DISPATCH: "That is a controlled burn. The (Colorado State) Forest Service is out there on scene with that."

LUCAS: "Yeah, we got 79-mile an hour winds up here and they got a controlled burn?"

DISPATCH: "Yes."

LUCAS: "Oh wonder. Thank you."

DISPATCH: "Uh-huh. Bye."

State Forest Service Provides 7NEWS Prescribed Burn Documents

The Colorado State Forest Service provided 7NEWS with 130 pages of documents relating to the Lower North Fork prescribed burn from March 21 and 22.

7NEWS requested the documents as part of the Colorado Open Records Act last week.

The new documents provide more insight into the information the Colorado State Forest Service had leading up to the prescribed burn, the following day and the day the fire reignited and went out of control.

Go/No Go Checklist Approved

The Prescribed Fire Go No-Go Checklist must be filled out before each prescribed burn. It asks 12 questions that must be answered, "Yes" before the burn can take place.

All 12 boxes were checked, "Yes" for the March 22 burn. The third question on the checklist asks:

    "Has a spot weather forecast been obtained? Have all weather prescriptions parameters been met?"

Among the documents reviewed by 7NEWS were weather data provided by the National Weather Service for the prescribed burn area.

On Wednesday morning, March 21, the Colorado State Forest Service reviewed the weather forecast for the next seven days.

7NEWS Chief Meteorologist Mike Nelson reviewed the weather data and did not find any major red flags that would have caused the burn to be immediately canceled. He noted that the temperature, humidity and winds were not at alarming figures.

However, after the burn took place on Thursday, March 22, the Colorado State Forest Service requested an updated spot weather forecast from the National Weather Service. That forecast was completed on Friday at 4:16 a.m.

That weather data included a forecast from Friday morning, March 23 through Monday, March 26 at 6 a.m.

In this weather forecast, wind gusts at 10,000 feet elevation were predicted at 55 miles per hour by 6 a.m. on Monday.

On Tuesday, 7NEWS asked the Colorado State Forest Service if it changed its mop-up and patrol plan based on the updated weather forecast that came out after the burn had taken place.

7NEWS received the following emailed response:

    "Out of a respect for the independent review process that is underway, it's not appropriate for us to comment further on the prescribed burn plan."

Forest Service Timeline Reveals Call For Help, Evacuation Request

One of the documents reviewed by 7NEWS showed a handwritten log of events as the prescribed burn reignited and went out of control.

1:40 p.m.: "Slopover" noticed at prescribed burn site. Slopover refers to a fire outside of the prescribed burn area.

1:47 p.m.: Slopover growing, "We'll need resources."

1:48 p.m.: The decision to call North Fork and Elk Creek Fire is made.

1:50 p.m.: "1.5 acres and growing fast, need more resources."

2:15 p.m.: Another call for more resources.

2:30 p.m.: "Declared escape - Type 3 from JeffCo coming."

2:45 p.m.: "...More resources coming -- discussion about aircraft."

4:10 p.m.: Incident Commanders formulating a plan with the fire at 10-15 acres.

4:30 p.m.: "Type 3 team officially requested by Incident Commander."

4:40 p.m.: "Fire crossed drainage -- evacs requested for Kuehster and Pleasant Park Road."

Independent Team Investigating

Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, convened a four-member, independent investigative team to look into the fire. The head of the team, William Bass, is a forest supervisor from Wyoming. The independent review is expected to take 30 days.

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