Arizona Division of Forestry Fined $559k for Yarnell Hill LODDs

The Arizona Industrial Commission has voted unanimously to adopt the findings of the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, and issue fines totaling $559,000 against the Arizona Division of Forestry for its handling of the Yarnell Hill fire last June that claimed the lives of 19 firefighters.

A total of two citations were issued, one wilful serious and one serious, both for violations of the general duty requirement. The general duty requirement is an obligation that employers must meet that goes beyond simply complying with formal OSHA regulations. An employer is required to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

The general duty requirement allows OSHA to cite employers who fail to address recognized hazards in a given industry, such as failure to comply with industry safety standards (NFPA standards for fire departments) and wildland fire safety practices.

Here is an example of the tone and tenor used in the ADOSH citation:

A.R.S. Section 23-403(A): The employer did not furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to their employees, in that the employer implemented suppression strategies that prioritized protection of non-defensible structures and pasture land over firefighter safety, and failed to prioritize strategies consistent with Arizona State Forestry Division – Standard Operational Guideline 701 Fire Suppression and Prescribed Fire Policy (2008). When the employer knew that suppression of extremely active chaparral fuels was ineffective and that wind would push active fire towards non-defensible structures, firefighters working downwind were not promptly removed from exposure to smoke inhalation, burns, and death.

Perhaps summarizing the sentiments of the report best, ADOSH Safety Compliance Supervisor Marshall Krotenberg was quoted as saying "Folks were put in positions — overly hazardous positions — to protect property that was unprotectable."

Here is a copy of the citation overview. Citation Overview

Here is a copy of the citation worksheet with a good description of the violations along with what the investigators believe happened. OSHACitations-ASFD

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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