Newspaper Archive of
The Sundance Times
Sundance, Wyoming
November 11, 1999     The Sundance Times
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November 11, 1999

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Page 8- Thursday, November 11. 1999 ~ November 4th will be a day I_arry Nichols will not soon fofgeL While fishing at ~ he hooked tile lip of this 43 inch 18.7 pound ~ Pike. Hedidn~ useamything special to catch thisflsh, just his usual poie and jig. He plains on having the fish mounted, that way no one can accuse him of telling '~lsh stodesl" llil David M. Pieper Bearlodge District Ranger On July 28, 1995, lightning sparked a fire in the sagebrush desert about 16 miles south- west of Boise, Idaho. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Boise District and the Kuna Rural Fire Department (RFD), after their Chief contacted the BLM to determine if their assistance was needed, responded to the fire. Two Kuna Fire Department firefighters lost their lives when their truck was over run by fire. The families of the deceased fireflghters claimed that the BLM. having jurisdiction of the fire, was respon- sible for the deaths. The plaintiffs brought sult under the Federal Tort Claims Act. In February of this year the United States District Court for the District ofldaho issued its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law for thls case. On the basis ofevldence and legal argument, the Court found the BLM and the Kuna Rural Fire Department both committed negligence that was the proximate cause of the fireflghters' deaths. The Court found that the Kuna RFD bore 65% of the responsibility and the BLM 35%. The Court found that the Kuna RFD breached Its duty to: l) provide within reasonable limits the equipment necessary to ensure their fireflghters safety, including radios; 2) send only qualified volunteer flreflghers to fight any fire and to pair firefighters in two-person trucks in a manner that reasonably provides for the firefighters' safety; 3) obtain weather forecasts to provide for flreflghters safety; 4) ensure that its fireflghters received a briefing either by Kuna RDF or BLM, before suppression efforts began, about the nature of the fires, fuel conditions, weather information, safety reminders, command structure and radio use; and 5) train its volunteer flrefighters to fight wildland fires in a safe and effective manner. The BLM breached its duty to: I) ensure the fireflghters were assigned duties commensurate with their capabilities and Kuna RFD's qualifica- tions: 2) fully instruct (briel) rural fire district volunteers, before fire suppression efforts began, about the nature of the fire, fuel conditions, weather information, safety reminders, command structure, and radio use: 3) ensure that all flrefighters heard (and understood the signifi- cance of the red flag warning; and 4) brief fire fighters on safety issues related to red flag warning and their assignment. In the West, volunteer flrefighters have been the cornerstone of fire suppression efforts in many sparsely populated rural counties. They are quick to respond, eager to help neighbors and frequently the first resource on many fires. From my experience, the relationship among fireflghters, whether they be state, federal, county or local, has generally always been good. Of course on some fires there are occasional jurisdic- tional disputes, command and leadership issues, and tactical disagree- ments. These types of problems always seem to get worked out satisfac- torily, however, and the fires gets put out. More subdivisions and rural homes, coupled with decades of fire suppression activities, are creating more difficult strategic and tactical flreflghtlng considerations and complex fuel conditions on the ground. We have seen an increase in both volunteers and professional fireflghter mortality in the past couple of decades. To protect themselves from The Sundance litigation andj udgements, both agencies and volunteer fire de will emphasize and require that formal training and standards be met by its flreflghters prior to fighting case that an organization falls to properly train or ensure firefighters are physically fit, that entity most likely will be the fire by the agency having jurisdictional responsibility. create problems on the ground and with existing good You bet! The heart of the Issue, however, is to efficient working environment for firefighters, tion. With that goal in mind, I believe people in the community will continue to work together effectively and firefighters the training necessary to fight fire safely and FIDLER CHAPELS Cremation Pre-krangement Sen~ing All Faiths l~'itb Dignity Since 1957 Sundance WY 307-283-3334 RANDY I 0 Time, Money, nd Effort 1 arrler It's a rugged world open to all. CaP' and shoes for designed for a world under construction. ' our Family Shoe Store" Downtown Spe