Tentative Settlement Reached for Little Valley Fire Trial in Reno
Lawyers representing Little Valley Fire victims say they have reached a tentative settlement with the State of Nevada for the 2016 fire.
The state of Nevada has reached a tentative settlement with dozens of homeowners and insurance companies that filed an $80 million negligence suit after 23 homes were destroyed when strong winds reignited a prescribed burn south of Reno in 2016.
Lawyers for Nevada and more than 60 plaintiffs told a judge in Reno Thursday the state Board of Examiners plans to vote on the settlement agreement June 11.
On June 27, a status hearing will be held before a judge with the settlement, if it's approved by the Board of Examiners.
William Jeanney, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he can't discuss details. But he told reporters after a brief court appearance it's a "good deal" for everyone involved given the circumstances.
He credited Gov. Steve Sisolak and Attorney General Aaron Ford for helping reach the agreement.
A trial to determine the amount of damages had been scheduled for December after a jury found the state liable for losses last year.
(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
UPDATE, August 2018:
The jury in the Little Valley Fire Trial found the Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF) liable for homes lost in 2016, but not the University of Nevada, Reno.
The last witness took the stand on Friday.
A meteorologist testified that the high wind gusts on that day couldn't have been predicted by looking at the radar. The defense argued that firefighters did everything right during the prescribed fire.
With sustained winds of 60 miles per hour, an 87 mile per hour gust was to blame. The fire re-ignited, destroying 23 homes and 17 other building along Franktown road in Washoe Valley.
The plaintiffs say that would not have happened if the NDF was more careful.
Homeowners on hand were happy with the verdict.
"I went through it. And it's fine halfway, but I feel much better now that somebody's been responsible for what happened." Ed Scott said.
"We've been trying to put our lives back together and none of us have really been able to put our lives back together and maybe we can go forward from this point," Debbie Sheltra said. "Gross negligence in pretty damn serious."
The homeowners are asking for the full value of their homes lost. It could take several months to figure that out and it may cost the state more than $100 million dollars.
Original Story: Jury deliberations are now underway in the Little Valley fire civil trial. Jurors will determine if the October 2016 prescribed burn was an unfortunate accident, or the result of negligence.
The last witness took the stand on Friday.
A meteorologist testified that the high wind gusts that happened that day couldn't have been predicted by looking at the radar.
The defense argues that firefighters did everything right during the prescribed fire.
And with sustained winds of 60 miles per hour -- an 87-mile per hour gust was to blame.
In October of 2016, the Nevada Division of Forestry conducted the controlled burn on land owned by the University of Nevada. The fire was intended to clear out overgrown vegetation to prevent future wildland fires, while giving the university a chance to study fire's impact on the ecosystem. 53 plaintiffs are suing NDF and UNR, hoping to recover the value of their lost property. 23 homes and 19 other buildings were destroyed when high winds re-ignited the fire, which spread into Washoe Valley.
The plaintiffs say that would not have happened if NDF and UNR were more careful.
"For two years, these people have lived without their homes, without their belongings, some of them lost 50-60 years of memories and the only thing they've ever asked for for two years is that you accept responsibility for what you did,” says attorney William Jeanney.
Unlike a criminal trial, which requires 12 jurors to agree, unanimously for a conviction, a civil trial only requires six of the eight jurors to agree in order for the plaintiffs to win.
Houston says the state has a immunity clause, which caps the amount of money owed to the homeowners, and that is not enough to make up for the damage.
Houston would not disclose how much money the homeowners are seeking.