Following the deadly Yarnell Hill fire in June 2013, more than 100 damage claims were filed by property owners and relatives of the 19 firefighters who lost their lives. Yesterday, the small town of Prescott, Arizona, where the firefighters were dispatched from, turned down each claim.
A law firm representing the city of Prescott stated that the claims were without merit, and that the city "is not liable to claimants because it didn't act intentionally, recklessly, or negligently." However, filing these claims preserves the individuals’ right to sue, and many are expected to lead to possible lawsuits, according to reports from the Associated Press.
The families of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who died on June 30 filed 17 of the claims; 91 others were filed by affected property owners. A dozen of the claims filed by the firefighter’s relatives seek some $220 million. They also requested new safety techniques, improved standards and equipment, and a new program that would use analysis of the deaths to educate other wildland firefighters. The 108 claims seek $662 million in damages.
The claims, which allege the firefighting techniques were negligent and reckless, are filed against several entities including the state of Arizona, and the Central Yavapai and Yarnell fire districts.
Thirteen of the fallen hotshot members were seasonal firefighters, meaning by law their families will not receive full-time employee benefits in the wake of the tragedy. Prescott has been both supported and heavily criticized for this decision.