12 relatives of Yarnell Hill firefighters file lawsuit

Published: Jun. 28, 2014 at 2:36 AM MST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2018 at 5:16 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Family members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill fire nearly one year ago have filed a lawsuit against the state.

The complaint was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on Wednesday, just a few days shy of a one-year memorial planned in Prescott.

Relatives of 12 of the 19 firefighters killed were named as plaintiffs in the negligence and wrongful death complaint.

The plaintiffs allege that state forestry officials did not "engage an appropriate initial attack on the small lightning fire, creating a situation that later placed hundreds of firefighters at risk."

Patrick McGroder, the attorney representing the 12 family members, said the lawsuit is not just about money.

"There is certainly a monetary component but the primary motivation behind these families is to find out what happened, how it happened, and what we can do to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again," McGroder said by phone.

Arizona's Department of Occupational Safety and Health has filed a report in the past and the Arizona State Forestry Division has reported, that officials followed proper procedure in reporting to the fire, according to the Associated Press.

McGroder said the reports have not been enough of an answer for the families.

"In the absence of litigation, we don't have subpoena power, we can't compel testimony of witnesses, we have no means of discovery. But when litigation is instituted, we have access to all those discovery methods," McGroder said.

McGroder said he requested a "tolling agreement" with the Attorney General's Office, which would have given the families time to resolve the case and hold off filing a complaint. But the AG's office declined, according to McGroder, causing the plaintiffs to file the lawsuit within one year of the firefighter's deaths.

"Out of this tragedy comes remedial measures and change to protect all wild land firefighters and hot shots particularly in the future. That's what these families are all about," McGroder said.

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