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Judge throws out some claims of Lower North Fork Fire victims

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By The Staff

A Jefferson County judge on Feb. 18 dismissed multiple claims from Lower North Fork Fire victims against the state.

Judge Dennis Hall ruled on a series of motions and dismissed all but the negligence claims that had been authorized by the General Assembly in the wake of the Lower North Fork Fire in 2012.

“Homeowners … cannot allege that their losses were a ‘known or obvious consequence’ of the manner in which the Forest Service conducted the controlled burn,” Hall wrote. “Conducting a controlled burn in a manner which would ‘obviously’ cause damage or injury to innocent persons would require a quantum of malevolence, which is alleged in either the homeowners’ original or amended claims.”

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers weighed in.

“This has been an unnecessarily lengthy and arduous legal process because of the nature of the claims some of the plaintiffs have pursued,” Suthers said. “(Hall’s ruling) recognizes that the plaintiffs are limited to remedies provided by state law.”

On Feb. 13, the legislature awarded $2.06 million to five Lower North Fork Fire victims, bringing total compensation to $4.9 million among 16 claimants. There are 29 more landowners in the process of seeking compensation from the state.

The Lower North Fork Fire began on March 26, 2012, and was the result of prescribed burn that re-ignited in high winds after a failure to monitor the burn site.