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Introduced Version House Bill 3270 History

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hb3270 intr
H. B. 3270


(By Delegates Morgan and Stemple )
[Introduced March 25, 2005; referred to the
Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources then the Judiciary.]




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.
(b) Upon receiving notice of any fire which is injuring or endangering forest land within the state, the Director of the division of forestry or his or her duly authorized representatives shall employ all necessary means to confine, extinguish or suppress the fire. 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 volunteer shall, under the general supervision of the director of the division of forestry, have the right and authority to enter upon public or private lands, to destroy fences and gates thereon, to plow or bulldoze such lands to fell trees, to utilize natural and man-made water resources, to establish fire lines, and in case of extreme emergency, to set backfires thereon in case of extreme emergency, and to engage in all commonly accepted fire fighting practices.
(d) No person The Division of Forestry and its employees or volunteers performing or reasonably 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 such the activities.
(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 to an 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 section shall be charged against the state. The Director of the division of forestry or his or her representative shall prepare as soon as practicable, a sworn statement with the names of all persons who were summoned or employed to assist in fighting such fires and the time so spent by each. as well as Additionally, the Director shall include the names of and amounts spent by persons who furnished equipment, subsistence, or supplies or transportation therefor, and the amount of money due each for such services, subsistence, supplies or transportation. Requisitions shall be issued and payment of the sums due shall be made payments made in the same manner as is provided for the making of other expenditures 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 be added.
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