Arizona and Montana Wildland Fires Spark Suits

Wildland fires in Arizona and Montana have led to two lawsuits being filed over the past few days.

In Arizona, 160 property owners who were victims of the Yarnell Hill fire filed suit against the Arizona State Forestry Division claiming the state was negligent in managing the fire. The fire in late June-early July, 2013 ravaged 8,400 acres, destroyed over 100 structures, and killed 19 Prescott firefighters, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Following the deaths, the Forestry Division was fined $559,000 by the Arizona Industrial Commission (State OSHA). The state is already facing wrongful death claims from the families of the deceased firefighters.

The 160 plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages for property losses, lost income, and emotional distress. The suit was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on Monday. Here is more on the suit.

In Montana, the state’s Department of Natural Resources & Conservation has filed suit against a property owner whose carelessness allegedly started the 2,000 acre Corral Fire in 2012.

According to the suit, Robert Fitte failed to properly extinguish a burn pile on June 23, 2012. Two days later the pile reignited and winds drove the fire into the wildlands. The DNRC is seeking to recoup $1.3 million of its costs to extinguish the fire. The suit was filed last week in Lewis & Clark County District Court. Here is more on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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