Forest fires in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding national forests last year have led to claims totaling $1.1 million against the federal government, according to U.S. Forest Service officials.
What the Forest Service is trying to decide in reviewing these claims is whether negligence or Mother Nature was responsible for the damage to personal and business properties, according to Arlene Bateman, who processes claims filed through the Forest Service's Region II office in Missoula, Mont."Many factors are considered in that particular light," she said. "Decisions on claims could be months away."
The $525,000 in claims Bateman is processing stem from the Storm Creek fire, which burned south from Custer National Forest in Montana into Yellowstone. The flames forced the evacuation of Cooke City and Silver Gate in southern Montana.
Among the claims are requests for restitution for damage to grasslands, loss of timber, destruction of fences, cabins and cabin contents, said Bateman. One motel owner is claiming smoke damage to merchandise inside the motel and damage to paint on the exterior, she said.
Another claim seeks repayment for the loss of logs a man intended to use to build a cabin, while others seek payment for a water system and an outfitting camp.
Similar claims totaling $573,000 from fires in Shoshone National Forest are being reviewed in the Forest Service's Denver office. Those stem primarily from the loss of 10 mobile homes in the Painter Estates subdivision in the Crandall Creek area northwest of Cody.
One outfitter in the area is claiming losses of income and supplies in the amount of $18,000, according to Betty Chisholm, who processes claims for the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Region, which is based in Denver.
So far no claims have been filed through the agency's Intermountain Region offices in Ogden.