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Okanogan fire victims suing state, saying it was negligent in putting out blaze

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(Photo: Carlton Complex Fire Information)

OKANOGAN, Wash. – A group of Okanogan County residents are suing the state for millions of dollars, claiming that a portion of the largest fire in state history could’ve been nipped in the bud with aggressive action.

“This started as a little fire, and we could have put it out in a day,” said Dave Schultz, one of the lead plaintiffs and a firefighter for 45 years. “We called it in over and over, but we were told they would handle it for us and we should leave.  There was absolutely no reason to leave this fire unattended.”

The lawsuit claims the state’s Department of National Resources failed to act in time to put out the Golden Hike fire on July 14, 2014, before it joined with other fires and became the Carlton Complex fire. It cites a helicopter pilot who claims there were smoke jumpers in place to put it out, but the state wouldn’t let them do so.

“I had a plane full of smoke jumpers, so I radioed in the Golden Hike coordinates to dispatch, and requested permission to jump,” said pilot Kevin McBride. “My request was refused and we were directed us to Oregon on a fire that was too large for smoke jumpers.”

Attorneys say they represent more than 200 property owners in the suit.