Salt Lake County seeking $50,000 in wildfire costs

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Army officials are refusing to reimburse Utah cities and counties for the costs of fighting a wildfire that started last year during a live-fire exercise on a National Guard base and eventually burned 4,300 acres and multiple homes.

After a claim from Salt Lake County for more than $50,000 was denied by the Army, Mayor Peter Corroon decided to take the case to the state Attorney General's office instead of appealing directly to the Army. He filled the request for assistance Thursday.

"To say I am disappointed with the Army's response is an understatement," Corroon said. "When the fire struck, Salt Lake County stepped up to the plate. We paid for the necessary resources to protect the safety and property of our citizens. Now we are asking that the National Guard do their part."

The Sept. 19, 2010, Machine Gun Fire started inside Camp Williams and swept into the Salt Lake City suburb of Herriman. It destroyed three houses, damaged a fourth, burned down outbuildings and torched vehicles.

The Utah National Guard has claimed responsibility for the fire, which started when live ammunition was used during a training exercise despite "red flag" fire warnings. Initial attempts by military personnel to contain the fire failed and the fire quickly grew out of control.

In its Sept. 7 letter, Army officials handling the claims said they don't have the authority to pay for costs "incurred by local entities engaged in fire suppression."

Herriman City and the United Fire Authority have had claims denied by the Army, as well.

Some homeowners who had property damaged are also frustrated with the process for reimbursement.

Jackie Burns of Herriman, who lost her house in the fire, told KSL-TV while their homeowners insurance helped them rebuild they haven't seen any money from the Army for damages.

"They admitted guilt, and they should make it right, but they're not," said Jackie Burns who lost her home in the fire.

The Utah National Guard said earlier this week $4.3 million has been paid to cover more than 1,400 accepted claims, and about 90 claims remain open.