Wildfire Victims Sue Government for $236M




Wildfire Victims Sue Government for $236M

Fifteen victims of a 2003 California fire accident destroyed 2,800 buildings and killed 15 people have filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government.

The fire, known as the Cedar fire, was the largest fire in recorded California history. It was started by a lost hunter who was signaling his position, but the lawsuit accuses the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service of misjudging the fire in its early stages and ignoring it as it grew, allowing it to become a massive inferno consuming more than 273,000 acres and taking 15 lives.

According to the complaint, “There was a complete and total disregard and lack of coordination by the defendant in organizing, dispatching, and/or controlling appropriate firefighting efforts within the Cleveland National Forest at the Cedar Fire’s incipient stage.”

The lawsuit further claims that the Forest Service negligently failed to prohibit or place restrictions on recreational use of the Cleveland National Forest despite the fact that five separate wildfires had engulfed 150,000 in flames in the five days prior to the Cedar fire, and that there was an obviously great risk of fire.

The Events

According to the suit, a hunter, Sergio Martinez, became lost. He set a small fire to signal his location while members of his party alerted the authorities and began searching for him. They noticed the fire and contacted the police, who dispatched a helicopter to pick Martinez up.

According to the suit, Forest Service Firefighters were at the scene, but they made no efforts to contain the fire or even assign personnel to watch it.

The helicopter pilot also called in to get a firefighting helicopter sent in to put out the fire. San Diego County dispatched one with a load of water, but Forest Service ordered the County to halt firefighting efforts.

The Forest Service’s station in nearby Ramona was also notified of the fire, but federal officials refused to dispatch firefighting aircraft the rest of the day.

By the next morning, the fire had grown to become uncontrollable.

The class-action lawsuit seeks to recover more than $236 million in damages for more than 2,000 people who owned property damaged by the flames.

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