A recent 7News investigation of Governor Hickenlooper's response to the Lower North Fork Fire found the Governor's review to be “very soft” with “political undertone[s].” The damning report by one of the top investigative teams on Colorado TV provides new fuel for the Fire Commission proposed by the GOP in a bill that lands in the state Senate today after passing the House yesterday.
Check out the full report here.
What's clear from the 7News report is Governor Hickenlooper doesn't want to do the hard work of assigning blame and cleaning up the mess. 7News asked wildfire expert Rich Schell, former chief officer for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, to review the Governor's report on the fire. Here's what Schell had to say:
“This needs to be reviewed on a serious, investigative basis, not like the Governor's task force report,” said Schell. “I describe the Governor's review as being very soft. I think it has a political undertone. Let's be realistic here, nobody wants to accept responsibility or be liable for this loss, the escaped prescribed burn.”
BAM! We're quite sure the Governor has never had the media deliver such a damning indictment of his leadership since he took office.
Not only does the 7News investigation call the Governor's report on the fire into question, but 7News's Marshall Zelinger continually points out incorrect statements made by Hickenlooper, calling him out as someone not dealing with the facts on the ground.
“And while they were there just kind of walking around and rolling up hoses and leaving, they judged the fire to be completely controlled, suddenly this freak wind came up,” said Hickenlooper.
Wind was forecast ahead of time. On Saturday, the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Watch for the burn area to take effect Monday.
Only sentences later Hick is again caught misstating the facts again:
[Hickenlooper:]”Now, we started this prescribed burn, there's no question about that. But, according to the Bill Bass report, the prescribed burn was started following and conforming to all the protocols and the way we do these things all over the state.”
That statement is not entirely accurate, as Hickenlooper mentioned earlier that the plan did find errors when the Colorado State Forest Service violated its own plan by not monitoring the burn on Sunday, March 25. [Peak emphasis]
Denver media take note: this is how you interview the Governor without kid gloves.
In terms of legislative action regarding the fire, Hickenlooper's most embarrassing statement comes towards the end of the article. When asked if he is “willing to encourage lawmakers to offer more than the $600,000 immunity cap,” which is what the Fire Commission bill is designed to look at, Hick says:
“We have a cap of $600,000; maybe we should be raising it? Maybe we should have certain exemptions from that cap? If people think we should revisit that and raise the cap, I'm happy to lead that discussion.” [Peak emphasis]
Well, actually, Governor, that is a bald faced lie. When asked about that exact issue last week, this is what Hickenlooper had to say:
[Hickenlooper] repeatedly declined to say whether the state should lift or waive its liability cap, which will divide a maximum of $600,000 between dozens of fire victims who lost millions.
Hickenlooper's honeymoon days are over. The days when he could turn on his charm and avoid all tough issues are no more. Marshall Zelinger of 7News just ripped the Governor a new one, exposing his bumbling leadership on an emotional issue that can't be aw, shucks-ed over.
Governor Hickenlooper, the discussion on the liability cap has already begun. We guess Speaker McNulty was right when he said at a press conference on the proposed Fire Commission: “The Governor can catch up with us when [the bill] reaches his desk.”