Lawsuit filed against company that conducted controlled burn which sparked Eastpoint fire

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By: Lanetra Bennett | WCTV Eyewitness News
July 12, 2018

Courtesy: WJHG

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of four people in Eastpoint.

Two of the people are the property owners of a home on Wilderness Road and the other two listed in the suit are the two people renting the home on that property.

Attorney Ryan Andrews calls the outcome of the Eastpoint fire shocking shortcomings.

"They were sitting in their homes and all of a sudden, fire balls were coming down on their house," he said.

Andrews blames Wildlands Service, Inc.

He said, "This was someone the state hired and said, 'take care of this.' I'm sure it went without saying, do it safely and don't burn down people's homes. Yet, here we are. It's outrageous."

The lawsuit states, "Wildlands Service said on June 19th 'the burn went well.'"

The documents go on to say, "in fact, the controlled burn had not been extinguished...and Wildlands Service abandoned the job and did not return."

"It could've been avoided if the proper precautions were taken and they should've been," Andrews said.

The lawsuit says had the contractors had bulldozers and employees on site, Andrews' clients wouldn't have lost their home and all of their possessions. His deaf client's service dog that was left behind while the family went to help others in the fire was killed.

"Their dog died in their home curled up on their bed," said Andrews.

WCTV has tried calling the owners of Wildlands Fire Services. We have not heard back from anyone.

Andrews says he suspects he'll be filing a lawsuit against the company every day for the next week or so.

By: Aubrey Brown | WCTV Eyewitness News
July 12, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Four people have filed a lawsuit against state contractors who conducted a controlled burn that later sparked a wildfire in Franklin County that destroyed 36 homes and burned more than 800 acres.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Leon County against Wildlands Service, Inc.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a statement on June 27 that Wildlands Fire Services was contracted to burn 480 acres in the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area on June 18.

According to court documents, Wildlands Fire Services submitted an invoice on June 19, claiming that the "burn went well," and that no fire had escaped from the area.

The lawsuit alleges the controlled fire had not been extinguished and burned an additional 340 acres by June 24, leading to the destruction of 36 homes in an Eastpoint neighborhood.

Two of the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are the owners of a home on Wilderness Road. The other two plaintiffs were tenants of the residence.

The owners of the home say their house was leveled by the fire sparked by the controlled burn. Court documents state the tenants' personal belongings were completely destroyed, and a comfort dog was killed in the blaze.

The lawsuit claims Wildlands Fire Services is liable for the damages suffered by the plaintiffs because it knew of the risks of the controlled burn and could have reasonably taken precautions to eliminate those risks. The plaintiffs are also accusing the company of negligence.

WCTV has reached out to Wildlands Fire Services for comment but have not yet heard back.

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