CASPER, Wyo. — Casper Fire Chief Kenneth King asked one of his inspectors to eliminate “bad parts” of video evidence being sought by authorities after a burning wood-chip pile at Casper’s landfill ignited a wildfire that destroyed 14 homes last year, according to emails obtained by the Casper Star-Tribune.
The newspaper reports (http://tinyurl.com/gwn5d4u ) the fire jumped the landfill and burned about 16 square miles last year. Officials were concerned the fire could result in legal action.
More than $1.7 million in claims have been filed related to the fire.
“Could you cut out the bad parts, and make sure that no copies are made and only (the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation) views?” King wrote in an email to Devin Garvin, a city fire inspector collecting evidence related to the fire to be shared with state authorities.
In an interview, King said he sent the email as a joke to someone he considers a friend and he said it was in poor taste.
“There was no thinking, you know what I mean. If I said anything, it would be making it up. There was just not enough thought into that email,” King told the newspaper.
The email was one of more than 1,000 turned over to the Star-Tribune as part of public records requests.
According to public records, firefighters reacted quickly to the fire, but most left the landfill within hours, even though piles continued to burn.
A two-man crew was left to tend to the fire overnight, and that’s when the fire got out of control.
A state investigation determined that the fire began in a machine used to grind wood. The investigation focused on the fire’s origins, but it did not draw conclusions as to whether negligence by city workers caused or contributed to the Cole Creek Fire.
Officials say losses from the fire are expected to rise into the millions of dollars, but the city’s liability is capped at $500,000 under Wyoming’s Governmental Claims Act. The city has sent the claims to its insurer, the Wyoming Association of Risk Management.
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com