H. B. 3270
(By Delegates Morgan and Stemple )
[Introduced March 25, 2005; referred to the
Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources then the
A BILL to amend and reenact §20-3-4 of the Code of West Virginia,
1931, as amended, relating to limiting liability for
volunteers and Division of Forestry employees for damages
caused when fighting forest fires; and making it a misdemeanor
for a person to refuse to assist in extinguishing a fire when
summoned by the Director of the Division of Forestry.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §20-3-4 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended,
be amended and reenacted to read as follows:
ARTICLE 3. FORESTS AND WILDLIFE AREAS.
§20-3-4. Authority and duties of Director of the Division of
Forestry and others as to forest fires; expenditures
for forest fire control; limited liability of certain
persons fighting forest fires.
(a) For the purposes of this section:
(1) "Director" means the Director of the Division of Forestry
or his or her duly authorized representative.
(2) "Employee" means a temporary or permanent employee of the
Division of Forestry or any other agency of the state.
(3) "Volunteer" means a private person or a member of a
volunteer fire department under the supervision of the Division of
Forestry who volunteers to fight a forest fire.
Upon receiving notice of any fire which is injuring or
endangering forest land within the state, the Director
division of forestry or his or her duly authorized representatives
shall employ all necessary means to confine, extinguish or suppress
For these purposes, any temporary or permanent employee
of the division of forestry or any other agency of the state and
any The Director is authorized to expend funds, and hire or summon
persons for these purposes. Any able-bodied person who is summoned
and who fails or refuses to assist in extinguishing a fire is
guilty of a misdemeanor.
(c) An employee or
under the general
supervision of the director of the division of forestry,
right and authority to enter
public or private lands, to
destroy fences and gates
thereon, to plow or bulldoze
fell trees, to utilize natural and man-made water resources, to
establish fire lines,
and in case of extreme emergency,
backfires thereon in case of extreme emergency, and to engage in all commonly accepted fire fighting practices.
No person The Division of Forestry and its employees or
attempting to perform any of
the activities authorized
by the preceding sentence under the
general supervision of the director of the division of forestry,
whether as a temporary or permanent employee of the division of
forestry or any other agency of the state or as a volunteer, shall
be in subsection (c) are not
liable in damages for the death of or
injury to any person or for damage to any property as a result of
his or her performance of
(e) An employee or volunteer found liable by a court of law
for gross negligence while performing or attempting to perform any
of the activities authorized in subsection (c) is not liable
extent greater than the applicable limits of any liability
insurance coverage available to the Division of Forestry, the
employee or volunteer.
such person under any liability insurance
policy or policies issued to the division of forestry, any other
agency of the state involved in suppressing the forest fire, any
volunteer fire department of which such person was a member and
which volunteer fire department was responding to the forest fire
at the time of the incident alleged to have caused such death,
personal injury or property damage, or any combination thereof. The
limitation of liability established by the preceding sentence shall
not apply if the death, personal injury or property damage alleged was caused by such person's willful or criminal misconduct, gross
negligence or reckless misconduct, or by a conscious, flagrant
indifference to the rights or safety of any person harmed by such
conduct. The director of the division of forestry and any duly
authorized representative may employ persons to detect fires which
may injure or endanger forest land and may likewise summon or
employ persons to assist in extinguishing such fires, who shall be
paid for the actual time so employed, at a rate per hour to be
determined by the director of the division of forestry: Provided,
That the rate per hour shall not exceed the rate per hour paid for
any comparable labor or skills by the division of forestry. Any
person so summoned who shall fail or refuse to assist in
extinguishing any such fire shall, unless such failure or refusal
to assist is due to physical inability, be guilty of a misdemeanor.(f) An employee or volunteer who engages in intentional acts
causing a forest fire that results in death or injury to a person
or damage to property shall be personally liable and prosecuted to
the full extent of the law.
(g) Pursuant to this section,
expenditures for detecting,
confining, extinguishing or suppressing fires
described in this
shall be charged against the state. The Director
division of forestry or his or her representative
soon as practicable,
a sworn statement with the names of all
persons who were summoned or employed to assist in fighting
spent by each.
as well as Additionally, the
Director shall include
the names of and amounts spent by
who furnished equipment, subsistence,
supplies or transportation
therefor, and the amount of money due each for such services,
subsistence, supplies or transportation.
Requisitions shall be
payment of the sums due shall be made payments made
the same manner as
is provided for the making of
by the Director.
of the division of forestry.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to limit liability for
volunteers and Division of Forestry employees for damages caused
when fighting forest fires; and make it a misdemeanor for a person
to refuse to assist in extinguishing a fire when summoned by the
Director of the Division of Forestry.
Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from
the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would