Feds Sue Fishing Guide, employer for allegedly starting a forest fire


The federal government filed a lawsuit on July 8 that names salmon fishing guide Joshua McDonald and his employer, Grove Salmon Charters, as defendants. The lawsuit alleges that a campfire started by McDonald’s in July 2019 started the Klutina River Fire, which burned approximately 176 acres in total, 30 of which are on federally owned land. He is asking the defendants to recover the federal government for $1 million in wildfire suppression costs.

The defendants said they were not responsible for starting the wildfire and that the federal government’s allegations were misplaced.

“I don’t believe we are responsible,” said Groves Salmon Carters owner Stephanie Holcomb. Anchorage Daily News earlier this week. She said she was surprised by the lawsuit and had yet to retain a lawyer for the case.

The lawsuit that was filed in Alaska District Court Last week says McDonald, a resident of Fitchburg, Michigan, was taking customers down the Klutina River in a raft on the morning of July 8, 2019. Later that day, McDonald stopped at a fishing hole at the mile 17 or around the Klutina, where he lit a fire for his customers on the riverbank.

The suit alleges that “McDonald failed to clear the ground surrounding and under fire” and that he “did not completely extinguish the fire before leaving the area.” He also alleges that McDonald was aware of a burning suspension in the area, which was announced by the state five days prior and affected the entire Copper River basin.

Read more : A First-Hand Perspective on the Alaskan Wildfires and a Tribute to the Few Who Fight Them

Neither Holcomb nor McDonald denies having lit a campfire that day. However, Holcomb told reporters that McDonald’s followed protocol and extinguished the fire completely. She also disputed that there was a known fire ban at the time, according to DNA.

“We weren’t the last group of users at the site of the fire that day,” she added. “The [were] many other users who used this fishing spot after we left.

The Klutina fire was initially reported at 7:10 p.m. on July 8, 2019, according to Alaska Wildfire Information. Within days, the wildfire grew from 50 acres to 176 acres, including approximately 146 acres of Ahtna Lands and 30 acres of BLM land. It was by no means the biggest wildfire of 2019, which saw 2.5 million acres are burning across the state.


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