More that 180 Yarnell residents and business owners today filed a lawsuit against the Arizona State Forestry Division alleging that the state acted with “extreme negligence” in responding to and controlling the Yarnell Hill Fire that destroyed much of the town and killed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots last June 30.
The lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court is the first of several expected to be filed this week as the deadline for filing lawsuits within one year of the tragic wildfire approaches.
The lawsuit provides a detailed timeline alleging the state was negligent by failing to quickly respond to the lightning-caused fire on the evening of June 28 and subsequently deploying inadequate resources to manage the wildfire after it escaped the initial attack on the afternoon of June 29.
“The Arizona State Forestry Division committed extreme negligence by entrusting management of the Yarnell Hill Fire to a low-level, exhausted, negligent, situationally unaware, inadequately experienced and overwhelmed Type 4 Incident Commander,” alleges the lawsuit filed by the Scottsdale law firm Knapp & Roberts P.C.
“What’s bothered me from the beginning is why this (fire) was not put out the first day,” says attorney Craig Knapp. “I just don’t get it.”
Knapp says Yarnell firefighters and volunteers were told to “stand down” by state forestry officials on the evening of June 28 when the fire was smoldering near the peak of the Weaver Mountains west of Yarnell.
They “should have attacked it when it was small,” Knapp says. “It takes very little resources and you can save millions of dollars and lives. They just didn’t do that.”
Knapp said his firm intends to file additional lawsuits this week including a class action suit on behalf of Yarnell residents who are not identified as plaintiffs in today’s claim and wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of families of three members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.