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United States of America v. Grange Insurance Association and Dale Owens
Court: United States District Court for the District of Colorado (Denver)
Plaintiff's Attorney: Andrea Wang
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Denver, CO - The United States of America sued Grange Insurance Association and Dale Owens seeking reimbursement for costs incurred in fighting Dead Dog Fire.
Grange Insurance Association and Dale Owens of Craig, Colorado, have paid the United States $500,000 to resolve their liability for a wildland fire in June of 2017 near Rangely, Colorado.
On June 11, 2017, Mr. Owens created a campfire to roast hotdogs for his family on federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management near Rangely. The United States alleges that Mr. Owens did not build a fire ring around the entirety of the fire and that he stepped away from the fire to gather additional firewood. While he was away, there was a shift in the wind, and the fire escaped the fire ring. Mr. Owens was able to get his family to safety and to call 911. He also stayed on the scene and attempted to extinguish the fire. Despite the efforts of Mr. Owens and of first responders, the fire—which later became known as the Dead Dog Fire—was not immediately contained and became an uncontrolled wildfire. The Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service incurred significant fire suppression costs in fighting the Dead Dog Fire.
Mr. Owens had a home insurance policy in place with Grange Insurance Association at the time of the Dead Dog Fire. Both Mr. Owens and Grange Insurance have been fully cooperative with the United States, allowing the parties to reach a full resolution of Mr. Owens’ liability for the Dead Dog Fire without litigation.
“Wildfires are a constant danger in Colorado, and taxpayers often foot the bill for putting them out. The Dead Dog Fire is an example of how not following best practices around campfires can lead to a wildfire,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn. “The United States appreciates that this fire was reported immediately, which allowed federal resources to be deployed quickly to combat it. We also appreciate that this matter was resolved cooperatively and enables the United States to be reimbursed for many of the costs incurred in fighting the fire.”
“We strive to educate the public and prevent any human-caused fires. In this case, the BLM appreciates that Mr. Owens stayed on scene and cooperated with fire investigators providing important information that was used for the case. Part of being an educated and responsible public land user is knowing what to do in a situation like the Dead Dog Fire,” said BLM Colorado State Director Jamie Connell. “We would also like to thank the United States Attorney's Office for their assistance in settling this case.”
Outcome: Settled for $500,000.00.