Grand Jury Indicts California Fire Chief for Manslaughter

A California fire chief has been indicted for involuntary manslaughter arising out of a 2017 wildland fire that claimed one life. Calaveras County District Attorney Barbara Yook announced the indictment of Mokelumne Hill Fire Protection District Fire Chief Michael Ray Dell’Orto.

According to MyMotherlode.com, the indictment alleges Chief Dell’Orto “killed David Rios, in the commission of a lawful act which might have produced death, in an unlawful manner, and without due caution and circumspection.”

On July 17, 2017, Rios suffered third degree burns over 90 percent of his body during a wildland fire designated as the Maria Fire. It burned over 100 acres between July 17 and 21, 2017. Rios died from his injuries on July 29.

Additional details about the connection between the fire and the indictment were not available either from MyMotherlode.com or from the District Attorney’s web site. However, in 2017 the Calaveras Enterprise reported that Rios’ family was seeking answers about what led to David’s being burned. His widow, Dianna Rios, claims David was supposed to be following her in his truck as they fled their ranch with their grandchildren.

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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