U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg has dropped his lawsuit against the city of Billings, Montana and their fire department. The congressman initially sought a monetary award from the city to compensate him and his wife for a 2008 wildfire that burned undeveloped property owned by the couple. He alleged that the fire department was negligent in allowing a fire to flare up 2 days after it was contained.
An attorney for Representative Rehberg contacted at least two retired wildland firefighters over the last several months inquiring if they would be interested in working as expert witnesses for the lawsuit. Those two turned the Rehberg team down.
A trial had been scheduled for December 3, 2012, but in October the Rehbergs said they would settle the lawsuit if the fire department would adopt “specific wildland firefighting standards”.
Earlier this week the city of Billings, through their attorney Michele Braukmann, refused to settle, saying:
The City is rightfully proud of what it was able to accomplish in very adverse firefighting conditions, and it believes that defending its firefighters from the unfounded accusations your client has made is of utmost importance.
I would hope that, if your clients actually take the time to review the documents that I have provided you, including the incident report forms, the detailed timelines, the dispatch records, and the other documentation they will — rather than condemning the firefighters — congratulate them for a job well done. I hope that I will be in receipt of dismissal paperwork for this lawsuit, and that I can let our firefighters know they can get back to the most important job they have — that of saving lives.
Rehberg, a Republican U.S. Representative since 2001, is giving up his seat to run against Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester in the November, 2012 election. The Tester campaign commented on the lawsuit:
Suing firefighters who helped put out your wildfire is one of the most out-of-touch and self-serving things a person in public office could do.
Rehberg’s attorney, Cliff Edwards, released a statement on Thursday:
Despite our firm’s belief this case has merit, and damages from the city are warranted for our clients, the Rehbergs have directed their case be dismissed, as politics have now been so injected into the case that the true substance of the matter can never be sorted out.
HERE is a link to other articles on Wildfire Today about Congressman Rehberg’s lawsuit against the Billings Fire Department.
Thanks go out to Dick