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Relatives sue Forest Service over flooding deaths following wildfire

Relatives of three people killed in flash flooding in New Mexico say the Forest Service didn't do enough to warn people of the risks.
Relatives sue Forest Service over flooding deaths following wildfire
Posted at 7:55 PM, Oct 24, 2023

Relatives of three people killed in flash flooding in New Mexico last year are suing the National Forest Service, alleging the agency was negligent in managing the aftermath of a significant wildfire.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that the Forest Service failed to close roads or properly warn people of the risks of flash flooding in the areas affected by the Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon fire.

In the aftermath of the fire, heavy rain in the region caused flash flooding, which killed three west Texas residents who were staying at a cabin in New Mexico.

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The fire began in 2022 as a planned burn that was meant to reduce the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. But it was improperly extinguished and, after merging with another prescribed burn, ultimately burned more than 533 square miles across three counties in New Mexico. The fire burned for months and destroyed hundreds of structures. No fatalities were reported as a result of the fire.

The Forest Service found in a report released later in 2022 that it underestimated the amount of fuel available to the fire and did not adequately account for dry conditions or the risk to nearby villages.

Congress set aside $4 billion to compensate victims of the fire. So far FEMA says it has paid out more than $101 million to address losses. 

Neither the Forest Service nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture have officially responded to the lawsuit.


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