Pennsylvania reduces liability for prescribed fires

One of the nightmares of wildland firefighters is being sued or charged with a crime when things go badly on a wildfire or prescribed fire. Some of the federal land management agencies have aggressively sought to find a law that was broken when there was a serious accident on a fire. That is why we recommend professional liability insurance for wildland firefighters who are in supervisory positions.

The state of Pennsylvania has taken a step in the right direction by passing a law that will help to protect firefighters involved in prescribed fire.

An excerpt from an article at TribLIVE:

In July, Gov. Ed Rendell signed into law House Bill 262. Sponsored by Cambria County Democratic Rep. Gary Haluska, the bill created the “prescribed fire burning act.” It “encourages the continued use of prescribed burning for fuel reduction, ecological, forest, wildlife and grassland management purposes.”

Most importantly, it provides a definition for a “prescribed burn worker” and removes individual liability from fire bosses who have received proper training and burn according to guidelines that are right now being established.

That liability issue kept agencies from doing much burning in the past because the man who struck the first match — even at the instruction of the agency — was individually as liable for any damages that occurred as was the organization itself.

Now that it’s been resolved, wildlife and habitat should benefit.

“This law will provide guidance and legal protection to land managers who understand the ecology of fire and want to embrace the best practices for managing public and private landscapes,” said Nels Johnson, the Pennsylvania director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy.


Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+