Boss in deadly Thirtymile wildfire charged, appears in court - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Boss in deadly Thirtymile wildfire charged, appears in court

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UPDATE SPOKANE, Wash. - The forest fire crew boss blamed for the deaths of four firefighters heard the charges of involuntary manslaughter at a court appearance in Spokane.

A federal magistrate released Elreese Daniels today without bail while he awaits trial. The Wenatchee man also is charged with lying to investigators about what happened in July 2001 at the Thirtymile fire near Winthrop. If convicted he could face up to six years in prison.

Forest Service firefighters Tom Craven, Devin Weaver, Jessica Johnson and Karen Fitzpatrick died when the fire raged through a dead-end canyon. Flames swept over them as they deployed their fire shelters on a rocky slope.

Daniels' lawyer, Tina Hunt, says her clients is being singled out for criminal prosecution even though the firefighting decisions were made by numerous people.

Assistant U-S Attorney Tom Hopkins has said Daniels failed to order the firefighters out of harm's way as the flames advanced and then lied to investigators from the Forest Service and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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