City of Prescott and Arizona State Forestry reject Yarnell Fire claims and fines

Yarnell Hill Fire
Yarnell Hill Fire. Photo by Joy Collura, June 30, 2013.

The City of Prescott has rejected the claims filed by the mother of one of the 19 firefighters that were killed, as well as those filed by 21 residents whose homes burned during the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30 in Arizona. According to the Prescott Daily Courier, the claims, which cited negligence in management of the fire, amounted to $48 million for the death of firefighter Grant McKee and nearly $100 million for the property damage.

The newspaper also reported that the Arizona State Forestry Division is contesting citations and $559,000 worth of fines issued to them by another state agency, the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The Forestry Division said in their letter to the state OSHA agency that the citations and fines “are not supported by substantial evidence, are contrary to law, arbitrary, capricious and constitute an abuse of discretion by the Industrial Commission of Arizona.” The next step may be a review by the Industrial Commission’s Hearing Division, which originally approved the fines and citations recommended by the state OSHA. The fines included $25,000 allotted for the survivors of each firefighter, a total of $475,000.

In a related story by the Daily Courier, more claims have been filed:

PRESCOTT – The families of 12 of the fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots filed wrongful death claims today, seeking a total of more than $200 million from four public entities.

The notices of claim are going to the State of Arizona (including the Arizona State Forestry Division), Yavapai County, the City of Prescott, and the Central Yavapai Fire District (CYFD), and are claiming “intentional, reckless, careless and grossly negligent conduct” during firefighting efforts on the June 30 Yarnell Hill wildfire.

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+

12 thoughts on “City of Prescott and Arizona State Forestry reject Yarnell Fire claims and fines”

  1. Is Donut being taken care of financially? I know so many have been helping one another but I wonder if Donut lays on that rock like I do where he was by the old grader and think of that day like I do—

    Donut was in much more danger that day than the 19 that perished-

    We watched him all through the day and he was ill (WE SAW THAT) and when I saw him the most was the Sesame area but I did see the atv in the area below us but did not know who was who until hiking others and learning—I saw it all that day and to me Donut was in more danger than the 19 were when they remained in the black. I hope this Holiday someone who has some heart does something special for him and his family-

    We wish you the best that you can “Merry Christmas” Donut—

  2. There is potentially a positive outcome with the legal actions and lawsuits… I don’t mean the money, or the blame, but the truth..
    You see, lawyers and there henchmen will be digging very, very deep into the events of that day and “The devil is in the detail”
    May we learn from this tragedy to prevent another…

    1. To prevent another, they just need to put the fire out when it is reported and not try and do it 18 hours later with no urgency or awareness to fire weather conditions, fuels and potential. And if an quick, aggressive and proper initial attack fails, crews keep one foot in the burn!! No problem, I did it for 30 years.

      1. Can anyone here say with first hand knowledge of the “two track” road on Yarnell Hill, if it would of been possible to get a Type 6 or Type 7 engine (Basically a pickup with water tank and pump) up to the point of origin of the fire? I was not there and do not have knowledge of the area, I ask this only for learning purposes..

        1. Thank you Don, yes we did learn from the same folks and in a very wildfire prone area. Want to buy a motorcycle?

  3. Eric- on Friday 6-28-13 night all throughout Yarnell community you hear about a vehicle with headlights on up in the area of the fire—what kind of vehicle—???—you can reach one source I know who heard about it— / (928) 671-1895 and another was an elderly lady at the Yarnell library. I personally think an atv only yet Sonny states a jeep or 4×4 type vehicle (but not a cookie cutter jeep that would get all scratched up and stuff) and with right driver with some sort of water gear could of worked being it is a steep rugged terrain in some areas but overall that area BEFORE the fire was a narrow path surrounded by unusually dense vegetation yet there was wash areas, old fire break from the late 60’s areas and the so called “jeep trail”/2 track road. About the lawsuits/claims. I have no problem sharing that day as I have freely but due to the recent activity by the one leading the class action and she refuses to state an apology on me just sharing the facts of an event she stated her husband did that broke the law yet I am the one who needs serious help she states- due to that one event it has now shifted our helping any claims led with her name on it as the leader and her lawyer replied to us—“strange”. Well, strange as it may seem—that lawyer does not realize the many hours we have helped you all in the Yarnell community, the fallen 19 and all previous fire fatalities…I did not just thrill seek my way that weekend to get photos. I was up there to let the off grid folks know there is a fire because you cannot see it at certain areas as well as assess a fire that did not go out by Saturday and I was at the Yarnell Fire Station on that 6-29-13 and was told it was all under control and I said I was heading to the fire to see it to take some photos to show the communities/husband if it was under control or not. We ran into a black bear that Saturday and I turned back and than went again for the final hike at 3:48am on 6-30-13 and was there all through the morning/day at the fire edge or very nearby the area not some photos taken by town view or highway view. People do not realize those men were in the black and I just want the areas to be looked out so I have closure and those areas are the files on these men going into the past to see if there was anything more to it like co-worker frustrations/etc. because we just have a gut feeling Eric Marsh did not lead those men and he ended up meeting up with them because we saw Eric Marsh throughout the day away from the crew and what about Donut. Does anyone really get he was so close to deployment and to me after seeing his lookout point was in more danger that afternoon than the 19 that were safe in the black. All I want for closure is check phone records not only of the cells but the Model Creek School system and the Yarnell Fire Dept. and any area these men could of used a phone that day like maybe even the restaurants or library. All records should be checked for that weekend for the town of Yarnell as well as all the cells these men and the management had- than I will feel hey, the men went into the most dense vegetation but until we see that gap filled it to me leaves it open for other options- I will not throw a person under the bus like some have because I am a facts person and source person and theorizing gets you so far. It is gonna take a common civilian to LOOK at the photos they have from that weekend and get it to the media and it is gonna take the videos too and we will really get answers but I wonder if people understand how ugly lawsuits are- SUING has never been my cup of tea but if something is wrong; I am all about remedies and making it right. I guarantee due to this ONE event with the leader of the class action suit we will be hiring an agent and for now anyone wanting to talk to us about that weekend can call the agency and that includes your claims/lawsuits. Had there been any other name on the leader of the claim- we would not be seeking such; an agent. That lady feels her husband can break the law and it is justified because he is not a hunter but you kill game because of scars and chars when I am the desert walker and I know these animals are happy even all charred/scarred- fresh growth and easy to move around and we have seen the joy as we sleep every day in a sleeping bag under the moonlit stars as we have 20-40 javelina graze and root by our sleeping bags and coyotes, cattle, lions and bobcats and even rattlers pass by—I have even woke up with a tarantula cuddled up to me and lizards- WE KNOW THIS TERRAIN better than most in the state of Arizona. We have to tell you another person to contact who told the GMHS not to go into that area on the morning of 6-30-13- Rick McKenzie said he spoke with the GMHS around 7:30ish mark at the Model Creek School and he is also the one who told us Maughan Ranch has 2 planes loaded w/ retardant ready to put out small fires on their ranch which was burning and was told to stand down as well as Grantham’s brother as Buford shared to us so we feel this was an avoidable tragedy and people who were affected and hurt by this weekend deserve to know every detail- consider some of these people lost 50-60+ years of their life that cannot be replaced or not just one life but 19 so yes there needs to be more answers is all- leaving it like it is —would be a travesty and dishonor to all involved as well as prior fire fatalities especially those that gave the ultimate- their lives and gosh, we feel so bad that no one has publicly thanked the many firefighters that helped that fire to ease when we were in the evacuation shelter- thank you to the fire community for doing that—it could of been a lot worse and you all have not been giving the proper credit so I am now and to the firefighters who were in jeopardy 6-30-13 because we know Donut was not the only one that day—we know you too were seldom mentioned but we care about you too. If we go with an agent this might be our last public freedom to speak statement. Also, consider so many residents that barely escaped and thanks to the actions of some ambulance drivers, YCSO, and locals we pulled together and saved people seconds from death—so we need to credit the YCSO for all their efforts- We also know by the folks we saved- the hysteria and trauma from this event has changed this community forever. Also YHRG has done their efforts to help rebuild this town. The Senior Center Scott Shepherd has gone above and beyond as well and the biggest thank you goes to the Yarnell library for ALL the ladies have done for this community. The eateries and gas station and Lions Club and United Way—the LIST GOES ON AND ON—-This holiday may you have much blessings and know during the suffering—things get better when the truth surfaces! Our whole lives changed that weekend. I never thought we’d be hunting for a dead body that is a direct result of this fire yet we have been doing this for the YCSO Paul Chastain and we have almost completed that task from Yarnell side to Congress side from Childers Well to Antelope Creek areas. The only area I think he may be is over on Maughan Ranch area where Don Glasgow who would not give us my written permission that I need to do travels like that on private land. People need to look deeper than the lawsuits because this community is not a sue happy one and they all just want the truth & justice. Thank you for all for helping everyone here. We appreciate you.

  4. Joy, many of us out here appreciate yourself and Sonny sharing your experiences and pictures of that weekend. I am saddened that the turmoil of the suits may affect you guys….

    1. Joy just learned another valuable lesson today. A few years back (2009) she hiked with Tommy and Frankie and Bryant & his lady in these caves and Joy finally took Sonny there as we are looking for suicide hiker Mark Danielson (direct result of this Yarnell Hill Fire upon return when his place was lost)–we found bones today but that only of a bull. When Joy went to approach the mine Sonny said “stay clear away from there” and I said “no I want to show you the mine we had been in”…Sonny replied “the same mine that not too long after Tommy and Frankie died of cancer”…I replied “yes they did die of cancer”…Sonny educated me of the mercury, cyanide & arsenic levels to that mine and may accredit to my brain tumor concerns and maybe my hiking pals concerns that led to their deaths due to cancer. Sonny was college educated later in life but earlier in life he was a miner since about 9 years old with his father was a miner/old trading post/gas station/rock shop owner Henry Eldon and Sonny was a logger/mountain man most of his entire life besides a few cookie cutter style marriages he had- so he really does know the terrain and the air and the weather from living—I would of never known that was a bad cave except I do recall the old miner George Subers fair warning me not to bring waders or go in the water—like Tommy did and they all went into the water except me to get these very pretty water crystals that draped all over so elegantly and I learned today good thing I did not go in the water. People question how come since 2011 we have embarked on this unique hiking adventure all over Arizona; him the mountain man and me the cookie cutter subdivision heavy housewife. I am sure glad I have pioneered it like we have not in some RV or traditional setup—to sleep under the moonlit stars is the best but even better he taught me that mine is very very bad but he said “I will show you tourmaline and sheets of mica and black crystals instead” and he did. Sonny is teaching me so much to being a genuine desert walker who knows the terrain- air and etc. versus just some heavy gal who walks the desert- Thank you Sonny for saving my life that day and for this unique adventure. There was only one sour person in the claims—just the leader of the class action was that rubbed me wrong on some of the public stances/claims—we want the TRUTH out not to make a county full of millionaires—get our drift. A lot of people fail to recognize the many organizations we all donated to help these fallen 19 families and the Yarnell communities (many millions donated)and so I get the frustrations-
      There is nothing we can say that will fill the hole in the hearts affected by the Yarnell Hill Fire. We mourn with you for the Fallen 19 and all prior fire fatalities. Our hearts are full of thanks to the Prescott community for all they did and I mean you all did a lot to help the 19 f/f and the Yarnell Community. So many and UNITED WAY/Lions Club was exceptional and so many more. I know that community and they are not a sue happy community and I know the emotion the fallen families face and this is not about a dollar sign but the TRUTH—every details needs to be placed out there. Being we eye-witnessed that day at the fire edge and near that it bewilders us since we know that area. You see, when a tragedy like this strikes—it is part of our nature to demand answers-–yet to us it’s important for us all to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds/hurts. We apologize to anyone we hurt on any level in sharing our story that weekend yet we just want answers so we do not have to see another tragedy like this happen again. We are not at all pleased by the news of claims/suits yet in hopes answers come is the only stance we support the claims but we do not stand behind some areas we read to claims.

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