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Arizona wildfire spurs 14 wrongful death lawsuits

This past summer, the Yarnell Hill Wildfire tore through thousands of acres in Arizona. Firefighters were brought in by local and state officials to beat back the massive blaze and attempt to save as much property as possible. All told, at least $184 million worth of private property was destroyed. Not only that, but 19 firefighters also lost their lives trying to serve the public.

In response to the on-the-job deaths, many surviving family members of the late firefighters have filed wrongful death suits against the state, Yavapai County, the city of Prescott and the Yarnell Fire District. Fourteen families have filed claims seeking damaged totaling more than $300 million.

The lawsuits claim that the firefighters should have never been put in such a dangerous situation. While workers were trying to control the wildfire, there was a lack of "key personnel" and there was insufficient communication for the firefighters who were on the scene, according to a post-incident investigation.

While families are seeking compensation for their devastating losses, lawmakers have also suggested providing financial support to them. However, the lawsuits have put legislative efforts on hold. As such, the families will want to make sure they are seeking the appropriate damages, since they can't count on relief from the state legislature.

Just as the physical landscape will require significant time to recover from the fire, those who were impacted by the loss of the firefighters will also have a long recovery ahead. The hope, however, is that a successful wrongful death claim will help them to feel whole once again.

Source: UPI.com, "Lawsuits mount after Arizona wildfire in June," Dec. 25, 2013

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