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
Bartetll 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 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."