Utah Fire Department Sued By Insurer

An insurer who paid a fire loss claim to a Utah homeowner for damage that occurred to personal property and real estate from a wildland fire last year, has filed suit against the local fire department, the city, the county and the state claiming their failure to control and extinguish a prescribed burn led to the damage.

The Bear River Mutual Fire Insurance filed suit against the Kanab Fire Department, Kanab City, Kane County and the State of Utah in Kane County District Court. The suit contends that the defendants were clearing weeds and debris from a gully adjacent to property owned by Travis Riding by lighting the gully on fire. The suit further alleges the defendants failed to extinguish the fire, and that on February 24, 2021 it damaged the insured’s property.

The suit seeks approximately $20,000 in damages. The complaint alleges the defedants are liable because:

  • It was foreseeable that starting a fire, leaving the area before the fire was fully extinguished, not extinguishing all embers, allowing embers to continue to burn, allowing a fire to continue in the area, and allowing the fire to spread off the area to the property owned by others would make the real and person property of others susceptible to damages and injury.
  • Defendants affirmatively and/or actively created a condition that gives rise to a duty to act in order to prevent harm and Defendants breached that duty.
  • Defendants started a fire, did not fully extinguish the fire, did not properly monitor the fire, and allowed the fire to spread directly and proximately causing damages and causing Plaintiffs to remedy the situation.
  • Plaintiffs were damaged as they had to secure the area as well as repair, replace, and/or remedy the damaged real and personal property.
  • Defendants were negligent generally, and more particularly, as follows:
    • a. directing that a fire be started in the area;
    • b. starting a fire on the property when it was known a fire is a hazard;
    • c. creating a dangerous situation by starting a fire;
    • d. allowing a fire to spread to surrounding areas causing damages to real and personal property;
    • e. failing to properly monitor the fire;
    • f. failing to properly extinguish the fire before leaving the area;
    • g. failing to make certain hot spots created by the burn were cooled;
    • h. leaving the area before all hot spots created by the burn were cooled and fully extinguished;
    • allowing hot spots from the created fire to spread and cause a fire in other areas which resulted in damage to real and personal property owned and insured by Plaintiffs;
    • j. failing to exercise due care; and/or
    • k. failing to properly monitor and prevent the embers from igniting and starting another fire.

Here is a copy of the 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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