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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OK, wait a minute, Cal Fire has already been paid by our tax dollars for fighting this fire. So if they win the lawsuit shouldn’t the taxpayers get the money?

Yes, that’s correct. The money gained from this lawsuit would go back into the state’s emergency response fund. In other words, the tax payers paid for fire supression for this fire already. Now, the state is trying to get the tax payers reimbursed by the responsible party.

EVERY fire could be construed as being started by negligence (except for arson).

You start a grease fire in the kitchen… it’s your fault and you should pay.

Your electrical is faulty…. it’s your fault and you should pay.

Your Christmas tree catches fire… it’s your fault and you should pay.

I wonder how CAL Fire calculated their costs:

man hours plus benefits

depreciated and amortized equipment costs

mileage on vehicles

diesel fuel used for the trucks

water and chemicals used on the fire

clothing and uniform costs and cleaning of said uniforms

utilities for the fire station


Someone change the law please, so that public agencies can’t sue for wild amounts, the entire value of a property because they performed their duty. The duty for which taxpayers paid.

Also, the detailed bill probably reads like a hospital cash bill, $95.00 aspirin, $ 295 an hour for a Cal fire pickup truck used to bring doughnuts for the site commander.

Finally, a fire due to a mowing operation? THEY TELL YOU to mow/clear a space and a fire is a foreseeable and not always preventable incident. “Mow before 10AM is pasted on their signs in rural areas.

The demand of this suit is outrageous; it could take the entire assets of the foundation. So by extension, every time a mower knicks a rock, Cal Fire eventually OWNS the private property involved? This is extreme.

I think there is an investigation that determines whether someone was at fault or not. If you’re mowing before 10:00 AM, have a proper spark arrester on your equipment, and have a fire extinguisher or back pump readily available, chances are, you won’t be charged for the suppression of the fire. However, if you’re mowing at 3:00 in the afternoon and not carrying a fire extinguisher, that is irresponsible, therefore, you will likely be held responsible for the suppression costs.

Excellent comment, P.W., and it hints at an important problem we are discussing.

“Won’t be charged”………is the key. I think many posts here decry Cal Fire suing, and it follows that THEY (Cal Fire) get to make the decision based on their arbitrary seat of the pants opinion.

I don’t want a million dollar lawsuit hanging on whether a “fire investigator” happens to opine on what hour or back pump was involved. I want the law changed so Cal Fire CANNOT bring back-breaking costly litigation “recovering” unwarranted sums for doing their paid, difficult, taxpayer-funded heroic jobs

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

According to this article, an ounce of prevention seems to be worth about two point five mil…

If they win the lawsuit the money should go back to the taxpayers who funded the costs!

Obviously another scam by government-going after deep pockets. As stated it was an accident. The Hinds Foundation is a respectable group of people who mean no harm to our communities as a matter of fact the opposite is true.

Where has CalFire sued people of lesser means? Whoever has initiated these actions should be identified so that we know who the real thieves are.

All of these increases with taxes, fees and penalties put on us by government to feed their caviar tastes need to be stopped.

Come November we all have the opportunity to make things right.

CALFIRE already gets $117.50 plus for every residence located in a rural area supposedly used for fire prevention. The reality is they cannot spend this illegal tax disguised as a fee as fast as they collect it. Our tax $ at work.

The total is $84,000,000. How do you spend that much on fire prevention?

Is it the policy of Cal Fire to bill, invoice and then file a lawsuit against everyone that starts a fire, or just the ones with financial resources?

This is inappropriate unless this is the standard for every fire that they response to. I know for a fact that not all fires are charged, matter of fact, almost none, so why this one when it was just down the road from the Cal Fire Station.

Just more money for their pockets. I am not opposed to cost recovery if EVERYONE its billed and has to pay. But, I am opposed to special selection.

I find this sad.

Our tax dollars are supposed to generate a public service yet it seems everything is headed toward cost recovery.

It will come to the point that anytime a fire call or police call is generated the person involved is going to have to pay a premium for service.

Unless the issue is one of gross negligence, this cost recovery crap should stop.

I’m with you sistah.