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Cerro Grande Fire
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6/8/2020 at 1:57:19 AM GMT
Posts: 3
Cerro Grande Fire

Was the Cerro Grande Fire in May 2000 in New Mexico the prescribed burn that got out of control and burned SUP cabin/summer homes?

If so how many cabins were lost, were they able to rebuild, and was there any money recovered from the FS? 

If this was not the prescribed burn that got out of control in New Mexico and burned SUP Cabins what was the name of the and year of the fire? Was there any other prescribed fires that got out of control that burned SUP cabins?

Is this the reason that in our SUP under IV. Rights and Liabilities D. Risk of Loss states:  "fire and any fire-fighting activities (including prescribed burns)"

Link to Cerro fire:

Any information would be helpful.

Cliff Conner-Coash

Past President URRCA

6/8/2020 at 5:12:03 PM GMT
Posts: 103
Response - No known cabin loss

NFH is not aware of any USFS cabins lost in the Cerro Grande Fire in May 2000.  We've made an effort to record loss of cabins over the years with reasons for the loss. Our records do not reflect any cabins lost to fire in NM in 2000, but our record keeping isn't perfect and that event was 20 years ago. From the limited research I did on the fire, you are correct the fire started as a controlled burn in the Bandelier National Monument and got out of control. The controlled burn was a US Park Service project (not USFS). After the fire got out of control, the Forest Service was called in to assist with fighting the fire.  The post-fire investigation included a number of criticisms regarding the management of the fire including timing (spring rather than fall), inadequate Park Service manpower, and delay of Forest Service response due to lack of inter-agency coordination. A number of private structures were destroyed by fire, but most were homes on private land on the outskirts of Los Alamos, NM. FEMA was called in to provide temporary housing for those with homes lost to the fire and it appears the US Federal government did reimburse homeowners and/or insurance companies to replace homes lost to the fire (through Congressional action).

As you point out, our special use permits contain a risk of loss clause that specifies the permit holder assumes all risk of loss of their cabin, regardless of the circumstances. We are aware of another incident where a group of permit holders (not cabin permits) litigated over the loss of private structures from a forest fire, allegedly caused by a BLM employee. The courts ruled in favor of the Federal government citing the risk of loss clause in the special use permit. The court did not rule on whether the fire was the fault of the agency. The court opinion simply stated the risk of loss clause protected the US Federal government from any loss liability and that this protection spanned all agencies of the Federal government, not just the agency that issued the permit.

Last edited Monday, June 8, 2020