A Colorado wildfire consultant
is helping at least 30 clients from the Hoback Ranches
submit their federal tort claims against the U.S. Forest
Service for millions in property damages allegedly caused
by its handling of the 2018 Roosevelt Fire.
Frank Carroll of Professional Fire Management based in
Pueblo spoke on the record in a Sept. 16 phone call.
The Roosevelt Fire was reported south of Bondurant
on Sept. 15, when two Rock Springs hunters – Steve and
Dakota Knezovich – found and reported a small warming
fire near Grizzly Creek in the Roosevelt Meadows area of
the Wyoming Range.
They believed the growing fire was being fought but the
next day they had to travel through it, leaving Roosevelt
Meadows and following the Hoback River to the Upper
Hoback trailhead. Both were transported to St. John’s
Hospital for emergency treatment of serious and severe burns
and then moved to other hospitals for more intensive care.
About 16 more hunters, most in the mountains for the
opening of deer-hunting season, also were evacuated after
the fire blew up quickly. Soon Hoback Ranches’ residents
were asked to evacuate and as the fire raged uncontrolled,
people in Bondurant and Jim Bridger Estates were advised
By Sept. 20, 2018, the Roosevelt Fire had grown to almost
32,000 acres and three days later, it covered 48,348 acres. In
the end it destroyed 55 private buildings of Hoback Ranches’
153 total homes on private property. A total of 61,511 acres
of private land and Bridger-Teton National Forest was
The Knezoviches filed a personal injury claim against
the Forest Service Federal Tort Claims Act before Sept.
15, inside the two-year statute of limitations, according
to Carroll. These are the first to be filed of about 30 more
damage claims expected against the Forest Service by Sept.
22, which Carroll said seek more than $100 million from the
Carroll said he is working with Missoula attorney Quentin
Rhoades to complete in-depth reports to send with their
tort damages claims “en masse” to the Forest Service’s
Intermountain Region 4 Office. Rhoades did not respond to
phone messages from the Pinedale Roundup.
“They know they are coming,” Carroll said of the Forest
Service. “The two hunters’ claim was already filed.”
Carroll, who worked for the Forest Service for 31 years,
said he now does “wildfire post-mortems” to see whether
Forest Service actions – in this case during the Roosevelt
Fire’s early days – “was appropriate … or if they were
making a decision about private property (burning) for
“We are literally working day and night to send these
reports to (Rhoades’ office in) Missoula,” Carroll said.
BTNF’s Mary Cernicek said tort claims would not be
submitted to the Supervisor’s Office in Jackson.
National Press Officer Babette Anderson emailed the
Roundup on Thursday morning, saying, “I’m reaching out
to the appropriate staff to assist with your question” about
the Knezoviches’ claim.
Federal Tort Claims Act
The Federal Tort Claims Act “provides for consideration
of claims against the U.S. for damage to or loss of personal
property, personal injury or death caused by the negligent
or wrongful act or omission of an employee of the United
States while acting within the scope of employment, under
circumstances where the U.S if a private person, would be
liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place
where the act of omission occurred.”
Claims are filled out on Standard Form 95 with “sum
certain” amount of money sought in damages. They would
be processed at the Forest Service’s Albuquerque, N.M.
office and investigated at the U.S. Department of Agriculture
in Washington, D.C.