The federal government claimed that Boy Scouts playing with fired caused a 14,200-acre wildfire. They want the judge to hold them responsible, allowing officials to seek damages.
The government said, in court documents that it would decide whether to seek damages after a ruling is made. It states that the June 2002 wildfire in northeastern Utah had cost more than $12 million to control.
In Federal court Thursday, Eric Overby, a Forest Service investigator, said the fire’s origin was pinpointed to an area where Scouts has stayed overnight.
A fire ban was in effect at the time of the blaze due to dry conditions. In court documents, the Scouts maintained they were not aware of a formal fire ban. They thought that small pit fires were allowed.
Overby said that during depositions that Scouts testified they were playing with fire. That they even had offered a teenage counselor candy in return for setting one.
The council’s attorney, Robert Wallace, is arguing that the Forest Service investigator could be wrong. He said that the Scouts extinguished their fires and that someone else could have caused the wildfire. He also stated that the Scouts slept at the campsite and had not smelled smoke or felt any heat.
The government is claiming the Great Salt Lake Council was negligent in allowing the Scouts to go camping without any adult supervision. During that campout there were 17 Scouts, ages 12 to 14. The only supervision they had was two 15-year-olds, according to Overby.
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell did not make a ruling Thursday on the government’s request for a summary judgment. The Scouts are seeking a jury trial in this matter.
Wildfires have personalities. By understanding their behavior wildfire investigators can trace a fire back to the source and find out who and what started the blaze.
Unlike structural fires, a wildfire first starts out very small and low in intensity, building up as it moves away from its original point of origin.
“You can learn some really interesting things by looking where a fire’s burned…a fire burns faster uphill. And it moves faster when the wind is driving it,” says Janice Coen, a wild land fire researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
Investigators typically move from the area of the most damage to the area of the least damage. The area with the least damage is tagged off with caution tape. The team investigators will then get to work.