Victims of the Lower North Fork Fire finally get $18.1M in financial settlements from state

DENVER - More than two years after a fire started by state workers got out of control and burned 22 homes and took the lives of three people, the families affected the by Lower North Fork Fire are getting settlement checks from the state of Colorado.

The March 2012 fire started as a prescribed burn by the State Forest Service. By the time the fire was put out, 4,000 acres had burned and Sam Lucas, Linda Lucas, and Ann Appel had lost their lives.

Under Colorado's immunity law, the state's liability was capped at just $600,000 for all of the victims of the fire.

However, a 7NEWS investigation in May 2012 revealed how the Colorado State Forest Service violated the prescribed burn plan. As a result, less than 24 hours after the 30-minute investigation initially aired, state lawmakers announced a plan to change Colorado's immunity law.

"I watched the special last night on Channel 7 and it brought everything back," said Colorado State Sen. Bill Cadman at the time. "It was obvious Colorado made an error, an unforgivable error that will forever change the lives of these people."

SB 14-223, crafted by Senate Minority Leader Cadman (R-Colorado Springs), Sen. Jeanne Nicholson (D-Gilpin County), Rep. Dave Young, (D-Greeley) and Rep. Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen), allocated $18.1 million to the victims. It was finally passed in May of this year.

The Colorado State Senate Majority Office said checks went to the victims Monday.

The payments covered losses that were not covered by insurance, such as charred landed, burned trees and trees that need to be cut down and replanted. The total also includes interest and economic losses for emotional distress and the deaths of Ann Appel and Sam and Linda Lucas.

The settlements paid range from $62,866 to $4,779,480.

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