Yarnell Hill Fire: More claims filed in deadly Arizona wildfire

PRESCOTT, AZ - The owners of seven properties in Yarnell have filed claims against the state, Yavapai County and the city of Prescott over the deadly wildfire last summer in north-central Arizona.

The claims seek a total of more than $33 million from the entities.

In addition, the mother of one of the 19 fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots added a $12 million claim against the Yarnell Fire District to her earlier claim against the state, city and county.

Marcia McKee, whose 21-year-old son Grant died June 30 in the Yarnell Hill Fire, now is seeking $48 million. She filed her original claim on Nov. 15.

The wildfire destroyed 127 homes in the community of Yarnell, located about 30 miles south of Prescott.

The claims state that the public entities in charge of fighting the wildfire "are liable for the injuries and damages that their negligent, careless, reckless, and intentional misconduct caused."

The homeowners' claims say they "lost their peaceful community, their home, their peace of mind, and many of their worldly goods" in the fire, according to the Daily Courier newspaper in Prescott.

An investigative report by a team of national experts released in September found proper procedure was followed in the worst firefighting tragedy since Sept. 11, 2001.

But the report found communications lapses, including a 33-minute gap in radio traffic from the Hotshot crew in the hour before the men died. It did not determine if the tragedy was avoidable.

After-hours calls to Prescott and Yavapai County officials and Gov. Jan Brewer's office seeking comment on the latest claims weren't immediately returned Friday night.

Also on Friday, the Arizona Republic reported that it received documents compiled by investigators for a report on the deadly wildfire.

The documents, released in response to the Phoenix newspaper's open-records request, reflect a wildfire suppression campaign that fell apart as wind-whipped flames reversed direction and exploded through Yarnell.

The workplace-safety investigation by the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health prompted the Industrial Commission of Arizona earlier this month to agree that the Forestry Division had committed serious and willful workplace safety violations by placing approximately 300 fire personnel in jeopardy during the blaze. The commission levied fines and penalties of $559,000.

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