A Summit County rancher is accusing the U.S. Forest Service of negligence in losing control of a 2003 "prescribed" burn that torched his private grazing allotment, setting him back $200,000.
While the agency found that the then-Uintah National Forest mishandled the Cascade Springs II burn, the federal government this year decided not to honor Dennis Earl's claim for damages, according to a suit filed in federal court Friday.
The burn targeted 600 acres for treatment on the west side of Deer Creek Reservoir, but Forest Service personnel ignited some ground outside of this zone on the afternoon of Sept. 23, 2003, according to the suit. Winds kicked up, igniting spot fires beyond the containment line and by 5 p.m. the blaze was declared an escaped wildfire. About 250 firefighters spent the next seven days reining in the fire that eventually burned 7,828 acres and filled the skies above the Salt Lake Valley with smoke.