A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in San Diego Superior Court – El Cajon by the family of Thomas Varshock, a 52-year-old Potrero resident who burned to death during the 2007 Harris wildfire. The lawsuit alleges that state firefighters were negligent in handling of the fire, and that their negligence caused the death of Varshock, and injuries to Varshock’s 15-year-old son, who was badly burned.
The lawsuit addresses the sequence of events that took place on a road near the Varshock home on the first day of the fire. Varshock and his son were driving away from their home to flee the fire when they encountered four firefighters. There was a discussion between Varshock and firefighters, then the Varshocks climbed aboard the truck with the firefighters, who drove them back to the Varshock home. Upon arrival, the fire fighters immediately started fighting spot fires, but were quickly overcome by flames that engulfed both the Varshock home, and the fire truck that was parked nearby. The fire fighters were also badly burned.
The California Department of Forestry (or Cal Fire), the named defendant, disputes this rendition of facts. It says that the Varshocks insisted on returning to their home, and only ended up in the fire truck after the Varshock’s vehicle stalled.
Obviously there is a huge difference in the story, which will likely be resolved by the lawsuit. Cal Fire has a number of legal defenses, including governmental immunities. If the family prevails, it will be entitled to money damages for the loss of love, society, companionship of Varshock, as well has the financial support. The son has his own separate case for his burn injuries.
Source: The San Diego Union Tribune
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