Property owners sue Arizona over 2013
wildfire that killed 19 firefighters
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[June 25, 2014]
By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - More than 160 property
owners affected by an Arizona wildfire that killed 19 firefighters last
year have filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming that its
mismanagement caused lives to be lost and homes and businesses to be
The lawsuit alleges that fire officials "failed miserably" and
acted with negligence in fighting the so-called Yarnell Hill Fire, a
blaze that claimed all but one member of an elite firefighting crew
"If the Arizona State Forestry Division had competently managed,
contained and suppressed the Yarnell Hill Fire, no member of the
Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew would have died," the suit
stated. "And Yarnell and its people would have escaped devastation."
The wind-whipped, lighting-caused Yarnell Hill fire destroyed scores
of homes and burned 8,400 acres (1900 hectares) before it was
extinguished in an around the tiny town of Yarnell, northwest of
The deadly blaze captured attention across America for weeks and
marked the greatest loss of life from a U.S. wildfire since 1933.
The lawsuit by 162 property owners, filed on Monday in Maricopa
County Superior Court in Phoenix, names the state and the forestry
division as defendants. Plaintiffs do not include the families of
firefighters killed in the blaze.
UNSPECIFIED DAMAGES SOUGHT
The suit seeks unspecified damages for lost and damaged property and
"infliction of extreme emotional harm, injury and distress."
A spokeswoman for the forestry division could not immediately be
reached for comment. A spokesman for Arizona Governor Brewer
declined comment late on Tuesday.
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Separate investigations into the incident were conducted, with the
most critical coming last December in which investigators charged
that forestry officials put preserving structures and land above
firefighter safety. The Arizona Industrial Commission fined the
state forestry division $559,000 for workplace safety violations, a
sanction that has been appealed.
On Tuesday, plans for the making of a feature film about the
wildfire tragedy were announced.
The movie will be directed by filmmaker Scott Cooper ("Crazy
Heart"), with Ken Nolan ("Black Hawk Down") writing the screenplay.
Itís being produced by a team from Conde Nast Entertainment.
"The heroic and tragic story of the men who gave their lives to
protect the community of Yarnell is heartbreaking, compelling and
inspiring," Cooper said in a statement. "I look forward to telling
their story with the respect, sensitivity and authenticity that
these true American heroes deserve."
(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Richard Borsuk)
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