Investigating the Fire

Number 25580
Subject Government
Source KMGH-TV (Denver)
State Colorado
Year 2012
Publication Date 04/02/2012; 04/07/2012; 06/04/2012; 08/13/2012; 08/22/2012; 09/23/2012; 09/24/2012; 09/25/2012
Summary After three people were killed in a fire set by the Colorado State Forest Service, KMGH-TV uncovered governmental mistakes and communication failures that killed people and destroyed homes. Our coverage spurred legislative change that will ultimately help the victims of the Lower North Fork Fire (LNFF) rebuild their lives and protect future fire victims. The LNFF was started in March 2012 by a state forest service prescribed burn that went out of control, killing three people and destroying more than 20 homes. KMGH-TV's six-week investigation uncovered multiple government failures that turned a supposedly controlled burn into an uncontrolled wildfire. Despite heading into a busy ratings period, KMGH-TV dedicated two reporters -- Amanda Kost and Marshall Zelinger -- full-time to investigate the fire. The station produced more than two dozen investigative reports over 40 days. On top of the daily reports, KMGH-TV produced a 30-minute special of original content in six days. Our investigations sparked a legislative inquiry into the fire and prompted Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to sign a law lifting liability limits that protected the state agency responsible for the blaze. Lawmakers, fire victims and community residents all agreed that without KMGH-TV's extensive investigation of government failures and mistakes, the families of people who died and people who lost homes would never be adequately compensated for their losses. Our investigation forced the state to reevaluate how it sets future prescribed burns to make sure the fires are safer for the community.
Category Contest Entry
Keywords fire; government; governor; community; death; safety
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