Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Firefighters' liability

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle has a lengthy article about the modern-day realities of fighting fire in our liability-ridden, wildland-urban interface choked climate today. Here is a brief excerpt.

Dick Mangan has fought fires around the country for 40 years and can wear a number of hats: operations chief, planning chief and safety officer.

He’s also past president of the International Association of Wildland Fire, a professional association with thousands of members. He knows his business.

But these days, when he goes on a fire, his wife issues a warning.

“My wife tells me, ‘Don’t do something stupid. I don’t want to lose the house,’” he said.

Like many fires bosses, Mangan has a new concern: personal and legal liability if something goes wrong and lives or property are lost.

The issue got serious in 2006, when Ellreese Daniels was charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter and three other felonies, five years after four people under his command died in the Thirtymile fire in Washington.

The charges were later reduced and Daniels has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of making false statements to investigators. His sentencing is scheduled for July 23.

But the event cast a pall in command tents at fire camps across the nation.

“It puts a very, very dark cloud over everybody in the fire community,” said Mangan, of Missoula.
Photo of Dick Mangan, by Bill Gabbert, at the 2006 Wildland Fire Safety Summit, Pasadena, CA, put on by the International Association of Wildland Fire

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