City of Yakima fighting hefty claim of police starting South Wenas fire

City of Yakima fighting hefty claim of police starting South Wenas fire

YAKIMA, Wash. --The city of Yakima is facing a claim worth over $157,000 for last year's South Wenas fire. Fire investigators say Yakima police officers accidentally started it.

According to reports, last June two Yakima police officers were practicing target shooting in Yakima County and shot a power line, causing it to catch fire.

Firefighters said the flames spread quickly and burned 2,800 acres of land and threatened houses in the Selah area. The total cost of damages was $157,227.

Some said it was an accident but somebody has to pay for it and the Office of the Attorney General of Washington said the city needs to pick up the bill.

Assistant Attorney General Paul James said, "Under Washington law, the department is responsible for the recovery of fire suppression costs when the fire is caused by negligence."

The city was supposed to pay the fee at the end of May but they said they are fighting the claim.

Some community members such as Tracy Renecker said she thinks the city should be held responsible.

"If I started the fire I would be responsible for it, not you and not her and not these guys walking across the street," Renecker said. "So why should we be held responsible for the fire that the police officers started?"

Others such as local Robert Panatex said he thinks it could have just been an accident but he said he doesn't want the costs to fall onto Yakima taxpayers.

"Who's going to front the bill? Let's see, I think should the community do it... not so sure, they didn't have any involvement in it," Panatex said. "Maybe a proposal to where we'll pay for it but in a long-term type of scenario, not all at once."

The city said due to pending litigation they could not comment further on where the money for the claim could come from.

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