USA — Some wildfire managers worry that mistakes they make on the job could come back to haunt them in the form of criminal charges.
Ellreese Daniels was charged last week with four counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from his role as a U.S. Forest Service crew boss during the Thirtymile wildfire in Okanogan County in July 2001.
Lawyers for Daniels and other federal employees say the criminal charges are inappropriate. They say many of the nation’s wildland firefighters now worry they could end up facing criminal allegations for mistakes they make on the job.
Several firefighting veterans said the new rules have them buying personal liability insurance to protect their homes and pensions in case they get called into court.
The Thirtymile deaths brought about changes in the way the Forest Service and other federal firefighting agencies attack wildfires, as well as new rules for reviewing wildfire deaths.
The families of the dead firefighters successfully pushed Congress to require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to independently investigate whenever a Forest Service crew is fatally overcome by flames, called burnovers.