Yarnell Homeowners' Lawsuits Dismissed

The remnants of one home after the Yarnell Hill Fire.
The remnants of one home after the Yarnell Hill Fire.
Matthew Hendley

Lawsuits brought by people who lost their homes in the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire have been dismissed.

The suits alleged that negligent firefighting led to the destruction of dozens of homes, blaming the Arizona State Forestry Division for "unthinkingly and incompetently react[ing] to events."

Of course, 19 firefighters died while battling this blaze, and a wrongful-death lawsuit's still pending.

In the homeowners' lawsuits, though, a county judge ruled that there's no mandate for the state to protect homes from wildfires, though the dismissal is being appealed.

This group of homeowners filed a notice of claim in late 2013, offering various settlements, which were denied by the state.

The plaintiffs were seeking damages for their lost homes, but also an injunction directing the state and forestry division to make some changes to how they handle wildfires.

The lawsuit alleged a lengthy series of missteps that led to the destruction of more than 100 homes in Yarnell, but generally focused on the claim that the fire could have been handled much sooner than it was.

The lawsuit claimed the incident commander initially in charge of firefighting efforts didn't properly implement a plan to fight the fire when he took over, just after the fire started -- two days before the deaths of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

The fire, reported early on by this incident commander as being 2 acres in size, eventually grew to more than 8,000 acres.

The lawsuit alleged dozens of instances in which the beginning of the fire-fighting effort was handled ineptly.

The first official report on the Yarnell Hill Fire, commissioned by the state forestry division, essentially absolved everyone involved of blame, and explained that everything went according to plan.

The only other official investigation, commissioned by the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, made a different interpretation, leading to safety violations against the forestry division claiming that firefighters were placed in harm's way.

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Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

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