Homeowners sue over loss of property in fire | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Homeowners sue over loss of property in fire

RENO (AP) – The owners of two homes destroyed in a 2004 wildland fire south of Reno are suing firefighters and the Washoe County sheriff’s office, claiming authorities failed to provide fire protection and prevented them from trying to save their own homes by denying them access.

Four target shooters suspected of starting the Andrew fire also are named as defendants in the suits filed by Gary Schmidt and Mary Bartell and Brent and Ada Danner in Washoe District Court. Six homes were destroyed by the blaze.

In their suit, Schmidt and Bartell said their home was surrounded by defensible space and equipped with a system of sprinklers, hoses and sand buckets that could have been used to protect the home had officials allowed the homeowners access.

Schmidt, a Republican candidate in District 5 for the Washoe County Commission, said Wednesday that state law gives him the right to protect his home.

“The state constitution says you have the right to protect your property,” Schmidt said. “Our strong position is they cannot remove you from your property or deny you access to your property, even if it does put you in danger.”

In his suit, Brent Danner contends firefighters ordered him from his home, denying him the right to protect his property.

Authorities counter that sheriff’s deputies and firefighters were acting within their authority.

“Certainly the police have the authority to keep people from entering a dangerous scene, and that includes a wildfire,” said Deputy District Attorney Greg Shannon said. “It’s within their power to manage emergencies.”

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