Cal Fire sues local foundation

July 19, 2014

Cal Fire filed a lawsuit against the Hind Foundation this week for $2.5 million, the cost of putting out a fire that was started by a mower in 2012 in the Santa Margarita area.

The lawsuit claims that the Hind Foundation, along with Lewis Construction, caused the Calf Fire Calf Fire that burnt 640 acres near the intersection of Highway 58 and Pozo Road. Cal Fire is seeking the $2.5 it cost for firefighters to put out the blaze.

Cal Fire claims that a negligent mowing operation on the Hind River Ranch, an 800-acre property the foundation purchased to study and protect wildlife, caused the fire. The area is known to contain multiple eagle nests, homes to both bald and golden eagles.

calf fire

Photo by Kim Patrick Noyes

During the mowing operation, a blade allegedly struck a rock and produced a spark the ignited the fire. The suit contends firefighting resources such as fire extinguishers were not on site during the mowing operation.

The Hind Foundation is “committed to funding community-based projects and programs that encourage people to work together to build an enduring legacy for future generations.” Projects the foundation helped fund include the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden enhancement, Atascadero Library expansion, and the Bravo SLO Performing Arts Showcase.

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31 Comments

  1. Jorge Estrada says:

    Welcome to California’s cost recovery programs, soon you may pay an admin fee for your speeding ticket too? These fires will continue to happen, what has changed is the benefit of gov is less likely funded within the budget. Payroll, pensions, benefits and lawyers are a much bigger part of what we pay for. Take notice how every private project gets loaded with public mitigation expenses. There may be a day where needed improvements will be placed on hold pending a large housing project, etc.

    The next time your retired 55 year old neighbor goes on a vacation, you might ask to be paid for feeding the pets and looking after things. $100 per day is fare.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  2. DonDiego says:

    We’ll now that you asked, yes I have done all of the above…and nobody made me do it! I did it because I liked the work and the money was good.

    So basically, using your logic, our tax dollars buy millions of dollars worth of equipment and firefighters to just sit around and wait? Then, when a fire breaks out, there is not enough money to pay firefighters and run equipment so we have to recover the costs. In the Government’s eyes, there is no such thing as an accident. Somebody must always pay!

    I am tired of hearing from fire departments about all of the new gear they need, after learning about all of the equipment that is left behind and buried at the end of a big incident…most of it brand new!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  3. wssailor says:

    Does everybody on here just write down every thought that pops into their head without fact checking. Cost recovery IS all about getting money back to the tax payers. Those that have caused a fire through an act of negligence and breaking the law are made to pay. The money goes back into the emergency fund that the taxpayers are paying into, so that’s it not depleted by negligent law breakers. Many of you seem to think it goes into the firefighter’s pockets. Are you kidding? I don’t know how you could publicly post such ridiculous comments. Stop jumping on the anti-government employee, anti-union band wagon. Wake up. Use your brain. Do a little research. Everything is not an evil government conspiracy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 7

    • Mr. Holly says:

      You ought to check the overtime money that they make which is mostly budgeted before the fire.
      How about the government when most of their “controlled burns” get out of control and burn hundreds if not thousands of acres? Should we sue them for a tax refund because of their negligence?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 6

    • LameCommenter says:

      Good to see that SOMEBODY at CalFire frequents this board. Nice to hear from you.

      We who post and object to this seizure are fully awake when we complain that an agency fully tax funded into scores of millions can seize large amounts over a reasonable occasional consequence of grassland living.

      What you call “cost recovery” we would deem “seizure”.

      Educate your own brain, my presumably union firefighter or public safety friend: public shared resources like fire suppression are a form of group insurance. We pay into the fund in taxes, and fire resources are directed where needed. Otherwise your job goes away. No single reasonable incident except playing with fireworks should be ruled or filed against to seize millions.

      It’s all in where you draw the line of “negligence” which fire investigators would deem ANYTHING. We just disagree with you on where you draw the line. This case constitutes seizure.

      Your vitriol is not needed here. Tone it down and we can all reason, and debate, together.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 11

      • wssailor says:

        So following your reasoning…if you accidentally “rear-ended” while driving you’re ok with everyone else paying for it? Take it one step further..since this was a negligent act (those who live in a grassland area should know the dangers of mowing dry grass without the required tools to put out a fire…all you have to do is carry what you’re supposed to and even if the fire gets away you are no longer negligent)…but I digress…again to take it one step further consider that you were driving drunk and uninsured and caused an accident that severely injured another party; you would assume that you shouldn’t be sued. This is the situation we have here. And no….I don’t work for CAL FIRE…just educated on the subject.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

        • LameCommenter says:

          You appear to have missed my point. The issue is a simple line in the sand of what is negligent and who pays. Guess we are far apart on that line.

          Some of your points misapprehend me, so please read: others can skip….
          # 1 – Yep, if I plow into somebody, others will pay under a social theory of shared costs. That’s because social law allows me to pay licensed companies to distribute my risk. I carry whopping expensive insurance limits consistent with the assets I wish to protect should I be “negligent”. Never caused a fire, never had an at-fault collision, but still I carry insurance to have others pay. What’s the problem?

          # 2 – You’re incorrect that I would ever assume that I’d not be sued if I drove drunk and uninsured. You are creating extremes of behavior not under discussion here.

          # 3 – Your “educated” status is DEFICIENT if you think that carrying a shovel and some fire suppression makes one “no longer negligent”. I believe the applicable statutory language is that if a fire “escapes (your) control” then you are prima facie responsible for ensuing losses. Case law I KNOW follows this line, indeed is more a strict liability line. This is regardless of minor suppression trinkets such as extinguisher or point blade shovel.

          I repeat my bottom line: Fires will escape control even with basic measures. It’s all just about who pays and when the public should, by it’s having been taxed to fund those jobs, should be PROTECTED from SEIZURE actions at law based on looney-tunes HIGH pricing/cost recovery. Especially when using seizure lawsuit pricing not calculated by heroic fire fighters, but by bean counters back at the office.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

          • wssailor says:

            I doubt those who had their property burn because of the negligence of another would agree with you. What if someone had been killed? Would you be singing the same tune? And why should we all pay because someone broke the law?

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

          • wssailor says:

            And so the fact the we have insurance (in the form of a fire department) means that we should be allowed to act without due regard for public safety and others property? Flawed logic sir. This is what’s wrong with our society these days. If there is no consequence for these actions then what is there to hold people accountable?

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  4. outcider says:

    Just a few comments, one remove the name of the group and replace it with an evil oil
    company. Would you want them to be treated the same as this Foundation? Two,a post seemed to say that the a 2.5 million dollar bill is a “little” mistake. Wow

    This has nothing to do with those evil self-serving public union members. This is about the law, it requires reimbursement for costs IF it can be proved. Mowing weeds without the proper fire prevention equipment which then starts a fire and burns off your property is a violation of the law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

  5. Citizen says:

    Accident vs. Negligence. If you or I had decided to get rid of star thistle in a fire/drought season using diesel equipment and had no water ready or fire extinguishers to put out a fire, we would be sued by Cal Fire.

    This fire endangered homes and people were evacuated overnight–all because the Hind Foundation wanted to get rid of non native plants. Even more egregious is that this environmental organization was supposed to be protecting eagle habitat, instead they burned it down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 6

  6. Perspicacious says:

    Well shoooot! I think the CHP should get on the bandwagon. Every time someone makes a little mistake that results in an accident they should sue the at-fault party for all the costs of investigating that accident. Unless they do already…does anybody know?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8

  7. isoslo says:

    The more I think about this story the more it bothers me. Firemen used to be the poster children for public servant now they are just another group of overpaid underworked self-serving public union members who think they are better than the rest of us. However they are good at their job.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 12

    • wssailor says:

      This is a ridiculous comment. You presume to know that every firefighter is overpaid and underworked. Ride along with them for a day and see what it’s like. They are doing the right thing here and not making all the taxpayers absorb the cost of an unlawful negligent act.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

  8. Old Salt says:

    10,000 dollars for each Fire Retardant airplane

    500 dollars per hour for each Fire engine on the job regardless if it’s being used or not…!

    Then there’s all that OVERTIME Cal Fireman MUST be paid for fighting the fire
    regardless if they are in camp eating, sleeping, or just standing around.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 11

    • wssailor says:

      Also a ridiculous comment. No one is getting overtime on their regular duty days. They are only paid overtime when they are held on duty to protect your life and property on what should be their day off. They work 24 hour shifts on these fires for weeks at time. You try it. Its the hardest job on earth. Have you ever cut hand line in 110 degree heat, sucking smoke, and carrying 50 lbs on your back for 24 hours at a time for weeks? Look at the number of injuries and early deaths, job related cancer rate that’s 8 times higher than the average adult. Its staggering.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5

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