Man who started Loveland wildfire may sue fire agencies

Man who started Loveland wildfire may sue fire agencies

17 March 2011

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USA — A man who pleaded guilty to starting a brush fire that burned out of control, scorching 740 acres and destroying two homes in northern Colorado, has filed a notice saying he intends to sue the agencies that fought the fire.

Joel Ledermann has filed his intent to sue 13 fire agencies, the Colorado State Forest Service and the cities of Loveland and Fort Collins, according to documents obtained by Denver’s KMGH-TV.

The Loveland-area homeowner’s attorney, Bradley Ross-Shannon, said he will examine the fire agencies’ “response time and the initial strategy in fighting the fire,” KMGH reported Wednesday. He said Ledermann’s legal liability could be reduced if he can show firefighters mishandled the response to the fire.

“We really don’t expect it to go anywhere,” Ross-Shannon said of the notice. “But we want to make sure that we preserve the right to look into and analyze the (fire agencies’) response to make sure it was appropriate.”

One person is suing Ledermann over the fire, and more lawsuits are expected, the attorney added.

Ledermann pleaded guilty to misdemeanor arson for the wildfire in the foothills west of Loveland in September. He was sentenced to three years of probation, community service and was ordered to pay restitution.

“I have to tell you, I was a little surprised when I heard about it,” Loveland Fire Chief Randy Mirowski of the possible lawsuit. “But I guess I shouldn’t be in the times in which we live.”

Mirowski defended the performance of his department and other agencies during the four days they fought the wildfire. The flames were driven by high winds in the rugged, hilly terrain.

Authorities said Ledermann didn’t have a permit to burn the rubbish on his property and didn’t take precautions. Ledermann told authorities that the weather was calm when he started burning the debris and that he believed he could handle the blaze.

The fire broke out Sept. 12, just as firefighters were wrapping up the battle against a bigger blaze in the foothills west of Boulder, about 30 miles to the south. That fire burned 10 square miles and destroyed more than 166 homes.

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