Ranchers Settle $6.8 Million Wildfire Lawsuit With Federal Government
The owners of a ranch south of Glendo have settled a $6.8 million lawsuit against the federal government for damages during the Sawmill Fire caused by Colorado Army National Guard troops training at Camp Guernsey in 2012, according to court records.
Kevin and Susan Rothschild, who have owned the 5,000-acre Bulls Bend Ranch, LLLP, for more than 20 years, demanded the damages from the National Guard and other defendants, according to a lawsuit they filed in May 2015.
The lawsuit initially named multiple defendants, but most were dismissed and the United States became the sole defendant.
Court records do not identify the specific amount the Rothschilds received.
U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson issued the order dismissing the case Monday.
The government should have known better, according to the amended complaint filed by the Cheyenne law firm the Kuker Group, which represents the Rothschilds.
Despite fire bans authorized by the Platte County Commission because of extremely dry weather, troops used ammunition and explosives at Camp Guernsey that led to the Sawmill Fire that burned over 22 square miles, including 2,000 acres on the Rothschilds' ranch.
"The Defendant, through its negligent supervision of its agents and as a direct and proximate consequence of their acts, was further negligent, irresponsible, reckless, and acted without regard for plaintiff's property by not having any fire extinguishing equipment or other controls in place to control and minimize the risk of fire from their activities," according to the amended complaint.
- Burned 1,000 acres of prime timberland.
- Permanently destroyed more than 1,000 acres of prime grazing land.
- Left behind rotting carcasses.
- Killed fish in streams and the North Platte River.
- Substantially destroyed wildlife habitat.
- Left burned standing timber.
- Caused erosion with silt and ash flowing into streams.
- Caused the loss of natural beauty.
- Caused $6,773,703 in damages based on several market value analysis.
National Guard actions have caused other substantial fires, including one in 2006 when troops fired live rounds into dry grass causing the “Tracer Fire” that destroyed more than 13,000 acres of grazing land and timberland, according to the complaint.