Two Yarnell lawsuits dismissed

Yarnell Hill Fire
The Yarnell Hill Fire burns into Yarnell, Arizona in 2013. Photo by Joy Collura.

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge on Wednesday dismissed two lawsuits filed against the state of Arizona by residents of Yarnell whose homes burned in the 2013 fire that killed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

The judge decided that the state did not have a duty to protect the property when it undertook management of the fire. The homeowners plan to appeal.

The 8,400-acre fire destroyed 127 residences in the Yarnell area.

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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.

4 thoughts on “Two Yarnell lawsuits dismissed”

  1. Just yesterday some ‘analysis’ of the Judge’s dismissal ruling showed up online along with an actual PUBLIC copy of the Judge’s written decision(s) supporting Arizona Forestry’s ‘dismissal’ request for 2 of the ‘property damage’ suits.

    The analysis has shown up on a BLOG called “Fire Law”…

    Aricle Title: Arizona Not Liable to Homeowners for Property Lost in the Yarnell Fire
    Posted by: Curt Varone – May 7, 2015

    NOTE: Author Curt Varone is both a FIREMAN ( for 41 years )
    and a LAWYER ( for 29 years ).

    Author Curt Varone does a good job of SUMMARIZING what is actually in the Judge’s (written) ruling… but he offers no real opinions himself about what parts of the ruling may or may not be overturned on appeal. He is basically just ‘walking through’ the actual court document and doing a good job of just explaining what it actually contains.

  2. Brendan McDonough has been re-scheduled (again) for an under-oath deposition to occur on May 26th in Phoeniz.

    Arizona Forestry has asked ALJ Judge Michael Mosseso ( for a second time ) to issue a subpoena to Brendan to ensure his participation. Arizona Forestry asked for similar subpoena before the previous Februay 26, 2015 attempt to depose McDonough… but Judge Mosesso said ( at that time ) that he wasn’t in the habit of issuing subpoenas for depositions.

    That February 27 deposition was cancelled at the request of McDonough’s therapist. He/she said that having to testify under-oath would not be good for Brendan’s PTSD condition.

    At the same time this deposition was being cancelled… Brendan has signed a book deal with the man who co-authored the book that the “Captain Philips” movie was based on. ( “Captain’s Duty” ).

    In the document that appeared just a few hours ago in the public ALJ Hearing File, Arizona points all this out to the judge and also supplies a copy of the AZCENTRAL article about Brendan’s “Book Deal”.

    Arizona Forestry is now telling Judge Mosesso that the situation is now completely different and he SHOULD ( this time ) issue a subpoena to FORCE Brendan McDonough to finally tell what he knows about the events of June 30, 2013.

    That new document that just appeared in the ALJ Hearing file is here…

  3. So what does THIS decision mean with regards to the still-active ‘wrongful death’ lawsuits?

    Doesn’t this just increase the ‘tragedy’ of that day and automatically make the ‘wrongful deaths’ even MORE ‘unnecessary’ and more ‘wrong’ than ever?

    At 3:42 PM.. Arizona Forestry Planning Operations Supervisor employee Paul Musser radioed Arizona Forestry Division ‘A’ Supervisor employee Eric Marsh and asked him if Arizona Forestry contract employees ‘Granite Mountain’ were still “committed to the ridge” or not. AZF employee Marsh said they were… and told AZF employee Musser to see if he could get the other Arizona Forestry contract employees ‘Blue Ridge Hotshots’ to help him protect Yarnell.

    According to all recent media reports ( and the actual City Attorney for Prescott, Jon Paladini )… AZF employee Eric Marsh then eventually ORDERED the AZF employees ‘Granite Mountain’ to leave the safe black and take an unsafe, unimproved escape route through volatile unburned fuel ( without setting a lookout ) just in order to come down and help ‘protect’ parts of Glen Ilah and Yarnell.

    Notice the common denominator up above…

    Arizona Forestry (contract) EMPLOYEES.

    When the Arizona Attorney General’s Office lawyers that are now tasked with representing Arizona Forestry in all these ongoing litigations filed these ‘motions for dismissal’ with Judge Richard Gama… did they not realize themselves that by trying to establish that Arizona Forestry had absolutely NO RESPONSIBILITY and/or DUTY to be ‘protecting property’ at all that day… that they were also automatically admitting that AZF employees Paul Musser and Eric Marsh and Jesse Steed were then completely OUTSIDE of both their AUTHORITY and RESPONSIBILITY to be ‘ordering’ Granite Mountain to leave the safe black?

    Arizona Forestry can’t have it both ways, here.

    If they want to claim they had absolutely no DUTY or RESPONSIBILITY to be ‘protecting property’ at all in order to get out of some/all of the ‘property damage’ lawsuits… then that makes what happened to the Granite Mountain Hotshots ( at the direction of their own employees ) even MORE ‘totally unnecessary’ and the very definition of ‘wrongful deaths’.


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