Colorado National Guard being sued for starting fire in Wyoming

Sawmill Canyon Fire
Firefighters conduct a burnout on the Sawmill Canyon Fire in 2012. USFS photo.

A private landowner is suing the Colorado National Guard for starting a fire at a training site in Wyoming that burned more than 2,000 acres of their Bulls Bend Ranch near the town of Glendo. The $6.8 million suit claims the use of ammunition and explosives while training during dry conditions started the fire at the Wyoming National Guard’s Camp Guernsey.

The Sawmill Canyon Fire began July 14, 2012 seven miles southeast of Glendo, Wyoming and burned 14,185 acres before it was contained. About 1,000 acres of grazing land and another 1,000 acres of timberland that burned was on the ranch owned by Kevin and Susan Rothschild.

“The defendants collectively knew of the risk and danger in using live ammunition and explosives in an area that was prone to be dry, yet they proceeded to use explosives and other fire-causing materials that ignited a substantial fire, which caused damage to the property,” the complaint states. “The defendants were further negligent, irresponsible, reckless and acted without regard for plaintiff’s property by not having any fire extinguishing equipment or other controls in place to control and minimize the risk of fire from their activities.”

The Rothschilds say the fires resulted in dead cattle carcasses rotting on their property, dead fish in streams and rivers, destruction of wildlife habitat, burned standing timber and erosion, with silt and ash flowing into streams.

It wasn’t the first time. In 2006, the Tracer Fire, caused by the Army’s firing live rounds into dry grass, burned more than 13,000 acres of grazing land and timber, killing thousands of healthy trees, according to the complaint.

“The only conclusion that can be reached is that the training procedures with the National Guard and the Department of the Army have been shoddy, neglectful and poorly supervised,” the ranchers say.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Dick.

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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.