Wrongful Death Suit Filed Over WV LODD Fire

The father of an Air National Guard firefighter who died while fighting a structure fire off-base, has filed suit against the local fire department, the local fire chief and the state of West Virginia. Senior Airman Logan Young died while battling a barn fire in Berkeley County December 27, 2020

The suit names the Baker Heights Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., the fire chief, the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard Fire Department (an agency of the State of West Virginia) and four John Doe defendants identified as those who set the fire. Young, 30, was posthumously promoted to Staff Sergeant.

According to the complaint, Sgt. Young and the Air National Guard Fire Department were dispatched to the scene pursuant to a mutual aid agreement with Baker Heights VFD. While on scene, he was struck by a beam as the barn collapsed. The suit claims Baker Heights Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., the fire chief (incident commander), and West Virginia Air National Guard Fire Department breached various duties owed to Sgt. Young:

  • At the scene of the fire, the Incident Commander breached his duties as set forth above by:
    • Failing to perform, or negligently performing, a situation evaluation that includes risk assessment;
    • Failing to appoint a Safety Officer to monitor conditions and operations;
    • Failing to determine, or negligently determining, the life safety profile of the incident and assess the survivability profile for fire fighters when determining whether offensive or defensive operations should be conducted;
    • Failing to perform, or negligently performing, an initial size-up that considers the type and condition of the structure and location of the fire and any indications of potential structural weakness or collapse;
    • Failing to recognize the high probability of internal and external collapse of the heavy timber construction and establish defensive operations;
    • Failing to clearly notify all fire fighters that operations were to be defensive only; g. Failing to establish and control collapse zones and make their boundaries clear; h. Failing to direct the transmission of an audible alert to notify fire fighters to abandon the structure when the conditions became unsafe;
    • Failing to conduct a personal accountability report to ensure that all fire fighters had abandoned the structure and removed to safe positions;
    • Failing to continuously monitor the collapse zone perimeters to ensure no one enters the collapse zone;
    • Failing to ensure that personnel safety systems have been established including a personal accountability system; and
    • Failing to take such other actions as were reasonable and necessary under the circumstances for fire fighter safety.

The suit alleges wrongful death by virtue of negligence, recklessness, and deliberate intent. 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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