Man Convicted of Igniting Colo. Wildfire Files Suit

LOVELAND, Colo. --

The homeowner convicted of burning of yard debris that ignited a 750-acre wildfire near Loveland has filed notice of intent to sue fire agencies that fought the Reservoir Road Fire.

The Sept. 12 wildfire that started in Joel Ledermann's yard raced across the foothills west of Loveland, burning two homes, several outbuildings and vehicles. The cost of fighting the fire was nearly $3 million.

Ledermann pleaded guilty to misdemeanor arson in December and avoided jail time. He was sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation and 450 hours of community service.

Ledermann's attorney, Bradley Ross-Shannon, said his law firm filed the claims against the fire agencies as a legal precaution, because his client is already being sued for negligence by a couple who lost their home in the fire. The attorney said he expects Ledermann will face more lawsuits, because insurance companies have paid on several fire claims.

The defense lawyer said he would examine fire agencies' "response time and the initial strategy in fighting the fire."

If attorneys could make the case that firefighters mishandled the wildfire battle, allowing it to spread and damage property, it could diminish Ledermann's legal liability.

The defense attorney said he faced a legal deadline to file the notice of intent to sue, or lose the right to question fire agencies' handling of the fire fighting. Filing an intent to sue claim against a government agency is required before a lawsuit can be filed.

"We really dont expect it to go anywhere," Ross-Shannon said. "But we want to make sure that we preserve the right to look into and analyze the (fire agencies') response to make sure it was appropriate."

Loveland Fire Department spokesman Battalion Chief Tim Smith said he did not know if his agency had been served with the legal claims as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Loveland Fire Department was the lead agency in the wildfire battle that involved at least 25 public safety agencies.

Prosecutors have been awaiting resolution of the neighbors' civil lawsuit against Ledermann before pursuing criminal restitution from the man, said Linda Jensen, spokeswoman for the Larimer County District Attorney's Office.

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