Three lawsuits filed last year by the families of twelve of the nineteen firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill fire have been settled for $670,000 along with assurances that new wildland firefighting procedures will be implemented by the state of Arizona.
Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots died on June 30, 2013 when they were overrun by a fast-moving fire. The three wrongful death lawsuits claimed that the Arizona State Forestry Division, the city of Prescott and Yavapai County “carelessly let the Granite Mountain Hotshots move into a rugged, brush-filled area where escape from oncoming fire was impossible.”
The settlement announced today by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich gives each of the twelve families $50,000, but does not ignore the families of the firefighters who did not join the lawsuits.
According to the Arizona Republic, the settlement has three key components:
- The plaintiff families will be paid $50,000 each from the state’s risk management fund.
- The non- plaintiff families of deceased firefighters will be paid $10,000 each by the Arizona State Forestry Division. The payments will be made in lieu of fines the division had been required to pay by Arizona’s state OSHA.
- State forestry has agreed to implement “enhanced safety training” for command personnel, improve its communication systems, and work toward “greater transparency”.
The attorney for the families, Pat McGroder, was quoted as saying:
- [Money is] not what this case is about.
- Our clients wanted transparency and change.
- The families are committed to improve continually wildland fire protection … Instead of seeking massive compensation, the families opted to seek a resolution with a new pathway to change.
The settlement still must be approved by the court.