Two insurance companies are taking the federal government and the Army National Guard to court because they refused to reimburse $785,000 in payments made to 21 homeowners who lost property in a 2010 fire in Herriman known as the Machine Gun Fire
In a complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court, Allstate Insurance Co., Met Group and Metropolitan Property and Casualty say the government entities were negligent in allowing a live-fire exercise to take place during extreme fire conditions and then failed to take action to extinguish a resulting fire.
Lt. Col Hank McIntire, spokesman for the Utah National Guard, declined comment Thursday, as did the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah.
The fire started on Sept. 19, 2010, at the Army's Camp Williams during a Utah National Guard machine gun training exercise. Investigators later determined the live-fire exercise started the blaze, which burned 3,500 acres, destroyed three homes and caused substantial damage to others.
The National Guard took responsibility for the fire and paid out more than $4 million to resolve nearly all of the 1,300 claims that were subsequently filed by property owners. McIntire was not immediately able to say how many unresolved claims remain.
One other lawsuit has been filed in federal court against the U.S. and the Army National Guard. Jill and Gary Case are suing over the loss of property and their home-based roofing business after they failed to negotiate a settlement. In response to the Cases' complaint, the government said conditions were "moderate," not high, the day the fire started. It also said crews did not immediately attack the fire because of concerns about unexploded ordnance in the area.
It also said the guard members participating in the exercise were not government employees, and thus the U.S. is not liable. At the same time, it said claims against the National Guard are barred because the federal government is the only proper defendant.