Arkansas Fire Department Sued for Five Fire Deaths

The Jacksonville, Arkansas Fire Department is facing a wrongful death suit over the death of a woman and four children in an apartment fire in 2012.

The suit alleges that in the early morning hours of March 22, 2012, the fire department was called to Apartment 3-B of the Max Howell Place Housing Project for a smell of smoke . Firefighters investigated but they were unable to locate a source of the smoke smell in Apartment 3-B. They knocked on the door of Apartment 3-A, but no one answered. Because there was a working structure fire going on several blocks away, firefighters concluded that was the source of the smoke smell and left the scene.

Later that morning the five bodies were found in Apartment 3-A. The fire had burned itself out and the victims died of smoke inhalation.

The 13-page complaint was filed last week in Arkansas Circuit Court for Pulaski County. Of the six counts, only two are against the fire department: Count 1 – alleging negligence by the fire department in failing to supervise its personnel, and Count 3 – wrongful death. The remaining counts were lodged against the Arkansas Housing Authorities Property & Casualty Self-Insurance Fund, the Jacksonville Housing Authority, and Evansville Insurance Company.

Here is a copy of the complaint. Complaint

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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