Fatal Fire Prompts Suit Against Illinois Fire Department

A volunteer fire department in Illinois is being sued over a fatal fire where firefighters were allegedly slow to respond and the department did not request mutual aid from a career fire department that was actually closer to the scene.

The Village of Bartonsville is being sued by the estate of a four-year-old child who died in a house fire on July 17, 2018. The suit was brought by the child’s mother, Javelyn McGrane, who is serving as the administratrix of his estate. The child is identified in the suit as John Doe.

The suit alleges that it took Bartonsville firefighters eight minutes to arrive at the fire station, and an additional four minutes for apparatus to reach the scene. The suit alleges that the Peoria Fire Department had a station that was closer to the scene and could have arrived in eight minutes total, but was not called.

According to the complaint:

  • Defendant, VILLAGE OF BARTONVILLE, through its employees and/or agents had the duty not to commit willful and wanton conduct in responding to a fire.
  • At the aforementioned time and place, the VILLAGE OF BARTONVILLE, via its employees and/ or agents, called for backup based on preference, without regard for the danger the house fire posed.
  • That the back[up] was based on preference, showed an utter disregard for Decedent’s, JOHN DOE’s, safety.
  • Defendant, VILLAGE OF BARTONVILLE, through its agents and/or employees, committed willful and wanton conduct by failing to call the Peoria Fire Department for backup.
  • As a direct and proximate result of one or more of the aforementioned acts and/or omissions, JOHN DOE, died on July 17, 2018.

The six-count complaint names the Village of Bartonsville and alleges wrongful death, breach of statutory duty, negligent training and negligent supervision. It was filed in Peoria County Circuit Court on September 18, 2018.

Here is a copy of the complaint: McGrane v Bartonville

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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