Families of Arizona firefighters killed in 2013 disaster sue state

A lawsuit filed by the families of firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill blaze charges that officials put protection of property ahead of the safety off those batting the blaze.
By Frances Burns  |  June 27, 2014 at 11:09 AM
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PHOENIX, June 27 (UPI) -- The families of 12 of the 19 firefighters killed in last year's Yarnell Hill fire have sued the state of Arizona and other government agencies for damages.

The lawsuit charges that the fire near Prescott was mismanaged when it began on June 28, 2013, allowing it to grow. On June 30, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew were overrun by the fire, with 19 of the 20 firefighters dying.

Commanders made protection of rangeland and buildings "a higher priority than the safety of firefighters," the complaint said. The Granite Mountain team continued "to work downwind of a rapidly progressing wind-driven fire."

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Maricopa County. The defendants include the state, the Arizona State Forestry Division, Yavapai County, the Central Yavapai Fire District and a number of officials.

A group of homeowners have also sued the forestry division.

"It failed to devise and implement any coherent plan to protect the firefighters assigned to it or to protect Yarnell's people and homes," said their complaint, also filed this week.

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