Nebraska Man Injured in Prescribed Burn Files Claim Against Fire Department

A member of the Lakota Sioux tribe has filed a claim against Sheridan County, Nebraska and the Rushville Volunteer Fire Department over severe injuries he sustained on March 7, 2012 during a prescribed burn.

Bryan Blue Bird, Jr. sustained burns over 25% of his body, and had to be airlifted to a burn center in Colorado. He required skin grafts and extensive treatment.

The prescribed burn was conducted to remove flammable brush near some commercial buildings in Whiteclay, Nebraska. It is an area that people are known to sit and drink. According to Patricia White Bear Claws, Blue Bird’s longtime companion, “They know they sit down there and drink. They know that. They should have checked.”

The following comes from the Omaha World Herald, and I quote so that I get it right: “The northwest Nebraska town [Whiteclay] has drawn national notoriety for its four liquor stores that sell 4 million cans a beer a year, mostly to residents of the adjacent Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where alcohol is officially banned.

“It has also sparked a recent federal lawsuit, alleging that breweries and the liquor stores are to blame for the alcohol-related problems on the reservation.”

Blue Bird’s claim alleges that the firefighters were negligent in not fully checking the area before setting the fire. Under Nebraska law, parties seeking to sue governmental bodies must first file a notice of intent to file a claim. If the claim cannot be resolved in a six month time frame, then a lawsuit may be filed.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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