FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The mother of one of 19 wildland firefighters killed in north-central Arizona has filed a $36 million claim against the state, Yavapai County and the city of Prescott, saying their negligence led to the death of her son.
An attorney for Marcia McKee wrote in the claim sent Friday that the three entities failed to follow proper firefighting procedures. McKee’s 21-year-old son, Grant, died in the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30.
Marcia McKee is seeking $12 million apiece from the state, Yavapai County and Prescott. But she said she’ll settle for $12 million within the next 60 days.
“The loss of his companionship, affection and love fully support the damages that she has requested in this notice of claim,” wrote her attorney, Craig Knapp.
An investigative report by a team of national experts released in September found proper procedure was followed in the worst firefighting tragedy since Sept. 11, 2001. The report, however, found communications lapses, including a 33-minute gap in radio traffic from the Hotshot crew in the hour before the men died. It did not determine if the tragedy was avoidable.
Knapp called the report a whitewash with a goal of avoiding blame. He said any “trusting, uninformed person reading the Yarnell Hill Fire report uncritically would think that the death of 19 men was just bad luck and no one’s fault, which is false.”
Spokesmen for Prescott and Gov. Jan Brewer declined comment Friday. Jack Fields, chief civil deputy Yavapai County attorney, said the county is reviewing the claim and would make appropriate decisions once that’s done. He declined to comment further.
Grant McKee was training to be an emergency medical technician and had intended to work with the Granite Mountain Hotshots only for the summer. He was engaged to be married.