Lawsuits over Center Fire in Big Pine

Last spring, fire rushed down the Sierra foothills from the Bernasconi Center into Big Pine. Some 20 homes were destroyed by fire. Now, insurance companies and home owners have filed lawsuits.

Attorney Peter Tracy represents Mike Rossi and his wife Evette Hannon. They lost everything in the blaze and have filed suit against the Carson Valley Men’s Group, a kind of self-help organization of 30 or 40 men that had been on a retreat at the Bernasconi Center, started a warming fire and thought it was out. Very strong afternoon winds whipped in and sent flames down the hill. Fast fire fighting limited the damage to homes at the bottom of the foothills According to court records, the lawsuit also names the County Office of Education which had rented facilities to the men’s group.

Attorney Tracy said that the Office of Education did require $1 million insurance from the group, which they had. Insurance companies that covered and rebuilt other homes in Big Pine are believed to have sued the men’s group and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, owners of the land at the Bernasconi Center. Tracy said no trial has yet been set and more depositions will be conducted in December. He said others may join the lawsuits.

Some sources have indicated that CalFire may also sue to recover fire fighting costs. Tracy said these matters may end up in mediation in the spring. The community of Big Pine, severely impacted by the fire, galvanized support for the fire victims through local churches, especially the Methodist Church where hundreds of pieces of clothing, furniture and appliances became available to those in need.


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11 Responses to Lawsuits over Center Fire in Big Pine

  1. Trouble October 24, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    If DWP had cleared their land around almost every house that was destroyed,most of the damage would have been avoided.

    • Wilko October 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

      This statement is rather idiotic. The accelerant vegetation surrounding the structures was on private land. The DWP land bordering these properties was covered with nothing but sage brush. In particular, there was extremely thick vegetation and tree coverings in the southern properties. To say DWP was in any way responsible for these damages just shows you have no idea what you’re talking about. In fact, actions taken by DWP during these town threatening fires actually saved structures.

      While DWP certainly deserves its fair share of criticism these days, bashing them in regards to these fires is ignorant. The amount of equipment, support, and man power DWP provides during these fire fights is enormous; all of which is provided at no cost to Inyo County residents.

      • Trouble October 26, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

        Wilko- please explain to me why DWP clears the land to the east of Bishop at least twice a year??

        • Wilko October 27, 2012 at 3:58 am #

          In places were they do clear brush it is obviously done to reduce potential fire hazards. However, in order to have prevented the loss of the structures in Big Pine, they would have had to clear thousands of acres of brush. Are you suggesting DWP clear all vegetation from their lands in the Valley?

          If you were familiar with the area in Big Pine where the structures were lost, you would know how impractical this would be. DWP land bordering the lost structures is either privately leased, or too far from the structures to be considered. You’re forgetting the fact that the fire was started up at Bernasconi. DWP would have had to clear the thousands of acres of brush over a 1.5 mile stretch to have prevent the spread of the fire.

          DWP is an easy scapegoat and rightfully so. But they’re are surely not to blame here. Also, you seem to have failed to acknowledge all they did for our town during the course of the fire fight. We were all extremely thankful for their efforts.

          • Trouble October 28, 2012 at 5:34 am #

            Wilko- That’s not close to correct, DWP owns and leases the land that the trailer park was on, in which over half the damage was done. They should have cleared that small area around those homes. DWP was/is the landlord to most all the property that should have been cleared. DWP deserves to be questioned on this matter. They are lucky no one was killed.

  2. Eastern Sierra Local October 25, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    Why would CalFire sue? They just got $150 per dwelling unit from every Big Pine resident this year- for this exact purpose.

    • Benett Kessler October 25, 2012 at 9:24 am #

      The new fire fee (tax) does not pay for fire protection only education and fire prevention.
      Benett Kessler

    • Well alrighty then October 25, 2012 at 10:06 am #

      Shoot CalFire is collecting that 150.00 from areas they do not even service

      • Realist October 25, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

        Another Jerry Brown tax scam.

    • Tim October 26, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

      Because that fee was not in place at the time of the fire. They just want their cut.

      • Benett Kessler October 27, 2012 at 1:29 am #

        Once again, the new fire fee does not pay for fire protection. Only fire prevention.
        Benett Kessler


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