Winner 2012

Investigating the Fire


On March 24, 2012, the Colorado State Forest Service set a controlled fire, also known as a prescribed burn, on Denver Water Department lands. The fire expanded into an out-of-control forest fire dubbed the Lower North Fork Fire. The fire burned 4,140 acres, destroyed 22 homes and killed three people. KMGH-TV assigned two reporters, Amanda Kost and Marshall Zellinger, to full-time coverage of the fire, its causes, its casualties and its aftermath. The station produced more than two dozen reports over 40 days. A 30-minute special report followed. This work discovered that the Forest Service neglected to monitor the prescribed burn on required days, that 911 callers were instructed not to evacuate their homes, that reverse 911 calls were based on inaccurate maps and that seven of the 22 destroyed homes received no notification of any problems. Coverage of the fire did not end, however, with determining causes and issues. The KMGH team reported severe limits set by the state for victim compensation. Following the KMGH reports, state lawmakers quickly revised the law to raise the compensation cap. KMGH also hosted two town hall meetings to afford victims opportunities to voice their concerns. Coverage of the issues continues. For its detailed, accurate investigative reporting of a terrible event in the heart of its community, Investigating the Fire receives a Peabody Award.


Investigative Reporters/Producers: Amanda Kost, Marshall Zelinger. Photojournalists/Editors: Jennifer R. Castor, Doug Schepman. Executive Producer: Jonathan Stone. News Director: Jeff Harris. Vice President/General Manager: Byron Grandy. Editor: Jason Foster. Photojournalists: Brad Bogott, James Dougherty. Art Director: Mark Montour-Larson. Graphic Artist: Katie Strickland. Hosts: Anne Trujillo, Mike Landess.