Yarnell Residents Claim Firefighting Negligence Led to Destruction of Homes

In a precursor to a lawsuit, several residents of Yarnell have filed notices of claim with the Arizona Attorney General's Office, alleging their homes were destroyed due to inept and negligent firefighter management earlier this year.

The notices come from the Scottsdale law firm Knapp & Roberts, the same firm that's already filed a notice of claim on behalf of Marcia McKee, whose 21-year-old son Grant McKee was one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died in the Yarnell Hill Fire.

See also:
-Yarnell Hill Fire: Mother of Fallen Hotshot Seeking Millions for Son's Death

From one of the notices of claim, filed on behalf of the homeowners:

The Yarnell Hill Fire destroyed their home, and much of Yarnell, because of negligence, carelessness, and intentional misconduct of Yavapai County, the City of Prescott, the State of Arizona, and the Yarnell Fire District ("liable public entities" or "firefighting managers") -- and because of the negligence, carelessness, and intentional misconduct of their relevant agencies, departments, divisions, officials, employees, and agents.

With reasonable professional planning and coordination of available firefighting resources, the firefighting managers could have prevented Yarnell's obliteration without endangering the Granite Mountain Hotshots or the other firefighters battling the Yarnell Hill Fire.

When the ineptly coordinated firefighting effort eventually made Yarnell's destruction inevitable, the firefighting managers had a duty to arrange for an orderly withdrawal that would have let the departing residents preserve much of their treasured heirlooms, mementos, and other personal property, and that would have changed the last-second, terror-filled, desperate flight for their lives into a calm, orderly, and efficient retreat . . .

This notice of claim also seeks reasonable damages arising from the infliction of emotional distress from the cover-up that the firefighting managers attempted to perpetrate on Claimants -- a cover-up that compounded the terrible emotional pain they had already suffered as a result of the botched firefighting effort.
There are similarly worded notices of claim filed on behalf of six other homeowners, too.

They come on the heels of a $559,000 penalty being assessed against the Arizona State Forestry Division for "serious" safety violations in the Yarnell Hill Fire, after an investigation by the the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Although a report commissioned for the state forestry division several months ago essentially said everything went according to plan, this new report from the state workplace-safety investigators described serious safety violations.

Additionally, supplemental information on the forestry division's investigation that was recently released shows not everything went A-OK, as authorities had alleged.

Much of the notices of claim are focused on the citations in the ADOSH investigation.

The claimants are making various demands for their claims, but, they're all in the neighborhood of about $1 million per entity (so, times four), although most of them propose settlements of around $1 million total, give or take a quarter- or half-million.

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley