Colorado Firecamp - wildfire training wildland firefighter training Wildfire Blog Engine Boss Apprenticeship Location and Facility About Colorado Firecamp Frequently Asked Questions

Colorado Firecamp - wildland firefighter training

Point Fire, 1995
Island Fork Fire, 1999

Point Fire Case Study

Point Fire Accident Investigation

A. Point Fire Overview

B. Investigation

C. Recommendations

D. Supporting Data

  • Sequence of Events
  • Organization Charts
  • Site Investigation
  • Fire Behavior Report
  • Property Damage Report
  • Witness Statements
  • Outline of Kuna Wildland Training Provided by BLM

E. Records and Reports

  • Preplanned Dispatch
  • BLM Radio Transmission Log
  • Ada County Dispatch Log
  • Fire Incident Status Summary
  • Escaped Fire Situation Analysis
  • Wildland Fire Entrapment Report
  • Technical Analysis of Personal Protective Equipment
  • Vehicle Inspection
  • Weather Reports

F. Glossary


Island Fork Fire Accident Investigation


Island Fork Fire, NIOSH Report

Point Fire — U.S. District Court Civil Case

Ruling on I.C.'s Decisions - Nov. 10, 1998
 • Factual Background
 • Legal Analysis

Ruling on BLM Liability - Feb. 19, 1999
Findings of Fact
 • Legal Standards
 • Analysis

Ruling on Public Safety Officer Benefits (PSOB)


Surviving Fire Entrapments


Colorado Firecamp extends special thanks to Linda Perkins, BLM Idaho State FOIA Coordinator, for her friendly assistance in gathering the Point Fire documents. BLM FOIA Letter





Civil Case No. 96-0324-S-BLW
(Consolidated with)
Civil Case No. 96-0452-S-BLW
Civil Case No. 97-0129-S-BLW

Legal Standards

  1. The plaintiffs--Joshua Oliver’s father and mother and William Buttram’s wife and son--brought this suit against the BLM under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

  2. Under the FTCA, the Government is liable “in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances.” 28 U.S.C.§ 2674.

  3. Whether a private person would be liable under like circumstances is determined by application of "the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.” 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b).

  4. Because this case arose in Idaho, Idaho tort law will govern the result.

  5. Under Idaho law, a plaintiff must show the following by a preponderance of the evidence to prove negligence: (1) a duty, recognized by law, requiring a defendant to conform to a certain standard of conduct; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) a causal connection between the defendant's conduct and the resulting injuries; and (4) actual loss or damage. See West v. Sonke, 968 P.2d 228 (1998).

  6. Under Idaho law, an employer "has a duty to exercise reasonable care commensurate with the nature of its business in order to protect employees from hazards incident to the employment and to provide him with safe tools, appliances, machinery, and working places," although the employer has no duty to warn of a danger that was not reasonably foreseeable. West, 968 P.2d at 237.

  7. A danger is reasonable foreseeable if it "is apparent, or should be apparent, to one in the position of the actor. The actor's conduct must be judged in the light of the possibilities apparent to him at the time, and not by looking backward 'with the wisdom born of the event.'" W. Page Keeton et al., Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts § 31, at 170 (5th ed. 1984). "In light of the recognizable risk, the conduct, to be negligent, must be unreasonable. No person can be expected to guard against harm from events which are not reasonably to be anticipated at all, or are so unlikely to occur that the risk, although recognizable, would commonly be disregarded." Id. "On the other hand, if the risk is an appreciable one, and the possible consequences are serious, the question is not one of mathematical probability alone . . . . It may be highly improbable that lightning will strike at any given place or time; but the possibility is there, and it may require precautions for the protection of inflammables. As the gravity of the possible harm increases, the apparent likelihood of its occurrence need be correspondingly less to generate a duty of precaution." Id.

  8. The term "proximate cause" means "a cause which, in natural or probable sequence, produced the damage complained of. It need not be the only cause. It is sufficient if it is a substantial factor concurring with some other cause acting at the same time, which in combination with it, causes the damage." Fussell v. St. Clair, 120 Idaho 591, 595, 818 P.2d 295, 298 (1991).

  9. "There may be one or more proximate causes of an injury. When the negligent conduct of two or more persons contributes concurrently as substantial factors in bringing about an injury, the conduct of each may be a proximate cause of the injury regardless of the extent to which each contributes to the injury." Idaho Jury Instructions #230.

  10. The comparative fault of a person or his legal representative which is as great as the comparative fault of the defendant bars recovery of damages for his death or injury. See Idaho Code § 6-801. Comparative fault which is not as great as the comparative fault of the defendant diminishes the damages allowed in proportion to the amount of comparative fault attributable to the person recovering. Id.

  11. When the Court is apportioning negligence under the comparative fault provisions of § 6-801, it may include parties to the transaction which resulted in the injury, whether or not those parties are parties to the lawsuit. See Pocatello Industrial Park Co. v. Steel West, Inc., 101 Idaho 783, 621 P.2d 399 (1980).

  12. In an heir's action for wrongful death, the negligence of the decedent is imputed to the plaintiff. See Adams v. Krueger, 124 Idaho 74, 856 P.2d 864 (1993).

  13. The elements of damage in a death case are as follows: (1) the reasonable expenses incurred for the decedent's funeral; (2) the reasonable value of hospital/ambulance care received prior to decedent's death; (3) the reasonable value of the loss of decedent's services, comfort, society, and conjugal relationship, and the present cash value of such loss that is reasonably certain to occur in the future, taking into consideration the decedent's life expectancy and circumstances; and (4) the amounts decedent would have contributed to the support of plaintiff, and the present cash value of the amount of money decedent would have been reasonably certain in the future to have contributed to the support of plaintiff, taking into consideration decedent's life expectancy and circumstances. See Idaho Jury Instructions 911-1.

  14. Damages are not to be awarded for any grief or sorrow plaintiff may have suffered by reason of the death of decedent or for any pain or suffering of the decedent before he died. See Idaho Jury Instructions 911-2.

  15. In a parent's action for wrongful death of a child, the trier of fact may consider the parent's degree if intimacy with his/her child in setting damages. See Gardner v. Hobbs, 69 Idaho 288, 206 P.2d 539 (1949).

  16. Noneconomic damages are limited to $400,000, plus the percentage amount by which the Idaho Industrial Commission adjusts the average annual wage. See Idaho Code § 6-1603.

  17. As of this date, the noneconomic damages cap under Idaho Code § 6-1603 is $590,291.26.

  18. Under Idaho Code § 6-1603, the jury is not to be instructed on the statutory cap. The statute thus contemplates that a jury could award more than the cap. If the jury also attributes fault to multiple defendants, or to the plaintiff and defendants, an issue arises as to whether that the verdict should be reduced to the cap amount first before the comparative fault reductions are made, or whether the comparative fault reductions should be made first, and if the verdict remains above the cap, only at that point reduce the verdict to the cap amount. The statute and the Idaho courts offer no guidance on this issue.see footnote #3 The plaintiffs urge the Court to apply comparative fault before reducing any award to the cap amount, and they cite a Colorado Supreme Court decision in support of their argument. In General Electric Company v. Niemet, 866 P.2d 1361 (1994), five members of the Colorado Supreme Court interpreted a similar Colorado statute to require that the court reduce the verdict before applying the statutory cap. Two Justices dissented, finding that such a result would allow plaintiffs to get around the statutory cap when they were injured by multiple defendants. The Court finds that the dissent has the better of the argument. The majority opinion relies heavily on legislature history rather than the language of the statute. There is, however, no similar legislative history available concerning the Idaho statute. Instead, the Court is left with nothing but the language of Idaho Code § 6-1603. That language is intended to limit a plaintiff’s recovery regardless of the number of defendants involved; there is no exception for cases where the plaintiff is injured by multiple defendants. Plaintiffs' interpretation, however, would essentially read such an exception into the statue. For example, if a victim is injured by one defendant and has $2 million in noneconomic damages, the victim would collect the statutory cap, $590,291.26. If another victim with noneconomic damages of $2 million is injured by two defendants, each 50% at fault, the Court would--under plaintiffs' proposal--apply the comparative fault first, reducing the award against each defendant to $1 million, and would then apply the statutory cap, reducing each award to $590,291.26, permitting the plaintiff a total recovery of over $1 million. Thus, the plaintiff injured by two defendants would collect twice the cap amount. That result essentially places an exception in the statute that the legislature did not intend. The statute is a cap on the plaintiff's total recovery with no exceptions for multiple defendant cases. Thus, the Court rejects plaintiffs' interpretation of Idaho Code § 6-1603. See General Electric, 866 P.2d at 1369 (C.J. Rovira dissenting) (finding that the Colorado legislature could not have intended, in drafting a similar statute, to allow, "by the sheer fortuity of being injured by multiple defendants, one plaintiff [to] collect more damages than a second plaintiff with identical injuries who had the misfortune of being injured by only one person").

  19. Payments that Ms. Buttram received under Idaho's Workers' Compensation laws, the federal Social Security Administration benefit programs, and private life insurance, are not deductible under Idaho Code § 6-1606 as compensation received from collateral sources for personal injury.

<<< continue reading—Analysis>>>


footnote #3 The lack of Idaho case law interpreting this Idaho statute raises a question whether the issue should be certified to the Idaho Supreme Court. It would not make sense, however, to delay this decision to await an answer on certification. First, the Idaho Supreme Court will need this decision to place the issue in its proper context. Second, the parties are free to file a motion to reconsider after receiving this decision, and the Court can determine at that point whether the issue should be certified. The Court expresses no opinion at this point whether certification is appropriate.

<<< continue reading—Analysis>>>


©2004-2006 Colorado Firecamp, Inc. home scheduleblogENGBfacilityabout usFAQ's