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Family of man killed in fire sues fire dept.

The family says firefighters arrived late and were unprepared

By FireRescue1 Staff

SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. — A Neb. Family is filing a wrongful death claim against the city and its fire department after a man was killed in fire earlier this year.

Salome "Sal" Blanco, 92, died of smoke inhalation in a fire at his home Jan. 6, while his wife escaped, according to the Kearny Hub.

Three Scottsbluff fire departments arrived to fight the fire, but the family alleges that the arriving crews were not adequately prepared and were "unreasonably delayed."

"More likely than not, he (Blanco) would not have suffered and died as he did had the Scottsbluff Fire Department met the appropriate standard of care in its response to the fire," a letter from the family read.

Nebraska Deputy State Fire Marshal Mike Turner told the news outlet that the fire was caused by ashes deposited on a back porch. The ashes, which were from a fireplace, were hot and burned through a container.

Maren Chaloupka, an attorney representing the Blancos would not confirm what the specific acts of negligence were, but told the Kearny Hub "the Scottsbluff Fire Department failed to do what firefighters are trained to do."

The family is seeking $1 million in damages, the maximum amount allowed under state statute.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Pete Gravell Pete Gravell Thursday, December 06, 2012 5:57:24 PM Why should the Fire Department suffer for the home owners own ignorance of putting hot ashes in an insufficient container on the back porch. His own negligence got him killed.
Jim Carley Jim Carley Thursday, December 06, 2012 6:02:04 PM another frivolous lawsuit by a family that shoul dhave been taking care of a 92 year old and watching him. But its sad that the old man's negligence got him killed leaving hot ashes in a bucket on his porch!
Mike Papahotelindialima Mike Papahotelindialima Thursday, December 06, 2012 6:02:52 PM How is it the Fire Departments fault that they were stupid enough to put flammable items on back porch inside a container that was not designed to contain the materials. With the way the laws are written, their negligence will end up letting them win the suit because insurance and courts don't want to fight it out. Another black-eye for a department who might have done everything correctly.
Bill Morrison Bill Morrison Thursday, December 06, 2012 6:04:03 PM I agree with u. I would like to know if this was a paid or volunteer company. Reason I ask has to do with the response time cause paid staff is always at the station and volunteer staffing is a hit or miss. U don't know whose coming and whose not coming.
Bob Booten Bob Booten Thursday, December 06, 2012 6:09:45 PM Leave it to an ambulance chasing attorney who knows nothing about what a proper fire service response is to smell a possible big payday for herself.
Jim Niemann Jim Niemann Thursday, December 06, 2012 6:24:51 PM Some years ago. while serving on a mostly rural, volunteer Fire Dept. we were notified of a house on fire approximately 4 miles from the firehouse. Upon arrival the house was 30% to 40% involved in the living room/garage area. After the fire was extinguished and speaking with the homeowner, a state investigator determined that the fire had started due to hot ashes from the fireplace. Those ashes were placed in a cardboard box and then on the front porch in a wicker chair. No lawsuit was filed.
Adam Rex Adam Rex Thursday, December 06, 2012 6:52:21 PM I believe that this department is a Combination Department. I know they have a full-time station but I believe it's also backed up by some type of Volunteer response as well. There was a video of this house fire on the internet but it's no longer available. I saw it on Statter911 but the video now says it's private.
Clint Nelson Clint Nelson Thursday, December 06, 2012 7:05:47 PM It is lawsuits like this that force city councils to look at funding for proper staffing and training. I would hope that this causes more funding for better staffing.
Kyle Griffin Kyle Griffin Thursday, December 06, 2012 7:31:26 PM Even if it is a paid station they could be on another call or, depending on how big of an area they cover, they could be miles away doing training.
Denis LaRoche Denis LaRoche Thursday, December 06, 2012 8:34:26 PM National statistics have shown that volunteer FDs have faster response time than paid FDs.
Leslie Nichols Leslie Nichols Thursday, December 06, 2012 8:47:31 PM These brave men have already won this suit against them. No Judge or jury would find favor in an angry persons attempt to make money off of their own negligence. So far as I know there is no rule book determining the amount of time to respond or for some one not on the fire department to judge them by. Shame on these people. Let them carry their own guilt. Shame, shame, shame...
Kyle Griffin Kyle Griffin Thursday, December 06, 2012 9:50:39 PM But whats the reason? Where I work we don't have many calls but in a big city they might have 3 calls at once. The statistics are flawed unless you look at the call volume for that station. Where I volunteer at it takes on average 7 minutes to get to the station, but anything inside the city is a 1 minute response time once I get a truck. To cover my whole district is any where between 1 and 10 minutes. And as a back up station to others it can be as much as 25 to 30 minutes.
Denny Steinman Denny Steinman Friday, December 07, 2012 12:54:28 AM As a retired Volunteer Firefighter and a Fire Commissioner there are always relatives that are looking for someone else to blame for a mistake done by a owners of this property. If the owners were not careless we would not have this bad situation. The firefighters can only do so much. They can only respond so fast and enter the building with the safety of the firefighters. There is always cirmcumstances at the scene of fires that might slow tefirefighters down ie: conditions in January, water supply and etc. Give the firefighters a break they do excellent jobs at low pay! Would you go into a burning house or structure?
Lars DeForge Lars DeForge Friday, December 07, 2012 5:17:48 AM he died from his own doing and the fire department might have taken a while to get there because people might not of been pulling over, and is the DEPT vol. or career that also has a difference as well.
Janet Gillespie Pratt Janet Gillespie Pratt Friday, December 07, 2012 5:22:28 AM My "better half" is a retired Toledo Firefighter and will totatly agree, Denny. Improper disposal of ashes isn't the FD's fault.
Nathan Enyart Nathan Enyart Friday, December 07, 2012 6:16:20 AM And as I agree with most comments on here. We are getting back into was it paid or volunteer? COME ON PEOPLE. Stop the paid versus volunteer crap. We both bleed red we both wear SCBA's yeah so you live on station we don't. We are ALL a brotherhood. And yes his act's of carelessness is why he is dead, not the fire dept's.
Kurt Steiner Kurt Steiner Friday, December 07, 2012 8:19:31 AM What did the firefighters do and not do when they arrived. If they are going to sue they need to put their card on the table and what they think the dept did wrong because we are not super man in bunker gear we risk our lives to save lives not to throw away ours to save nothing. And what are we trained to do or are they saying that the dept didn't follow NFPA to the letter because that could only happen in a perfect world. Looking forward to finding out more.
Nick Bunting Nick Bunting Friday, December 07, 2012 2:57:17 PM Only in America can some retard sue due to their own negligence. Idiocracy isnt fiction anymore.
Bobby Dean Cranford Bobby Dean Cranford Friday, December 07, 2012 3:24:13 PM LAWYERS!
Matt Ingold Matt Ingold Friday, December 07, 2012 3:52:07 PM Would love to know if the owner had "working"smoke detectors in the home, and why should the fire department be sued for this, they didn't place the Ashes there. Also 92 yo, instead of the family wanting a reason to sue someone, they should have been there helping the 90+ dumping Ashes and disposing of them safely. Amazes me at what people will try to get money for.. SAD..
Andy Kimball Andy Kimball Friday, December 07, 2012 4:16:43 PM Idiots
Bennett Behringer Bennett Behringer Friday, December 07, 2012 4:22:00 PM Idiots is an understatement for the Nebraska family!!!
Diana Polonia John Pagano Diana Polonia John Pagano Friday, December 07, 2012 4:22:25 PM so I guess fire depts can sue homeowners for being stupid and causing our injuries!
Rico Knapp Rico Knapp Friday, December 07, 2012 4:26:21 PM One word. MUTTS.
Adam Kaelin Adam Kaelin Friday, December 07, 2012 4:31:09 PM 1. Cause of fire is irrelevant. 2. Volunteer or Paid is relevant because it determines which NFPA standard is being used as the "appropriate standard." 3. What matters the most, and is where the case will be decided, is the "specific acts of negligence" involved. (Did it take them 35 mins to respond, did they not know how to put the truck in gear to pump, etc).
Jerry L. Busby Jerry L. Busby Friday, December 07, 2012 4:36:59 PM There is always someone to sue someone at any time. We all need to be ready and trained to do the job right! If we can't then get out of the business! It isn't a Paid or Volunteer issue its a Our Duty to Care for Life, Propect Property and keep each other Safe!
Steve Loftness Steve Loftness Friday, December 07, 2012 4:52:21 PM In the volunteer dept. I belong to, we cover a very large rural area. Some of the farthest reaches are 10 miles away. That means, taking an average of 3 to 5 min. to respond to the fire hall, at best depending on the time of day or night, I t could be 15 to 20 min. from time of call to arrive. Sucky situation. but that is the way it is. We do the very best we can with what we have and what we get.
Kevin Meltzer Kevin Meltzer Friday, December 07, 2012 4:53:05 PM People just out to make a buck. Sickening.
Steve Loftness Steve Loftness Friday, December 07, 2012 5:00:32 PM We carry 30 volunteer's on our dept. in hopes of getting enough FF on a call to do what we are asked to do. We cover a very large area of rural farm land. Response times depend on many things. Time of day. Day of week. Area of coverage. At the far reaches of our area, it could be 15-20 min. before we even get there. People just don't realize this situation. We do the best we can with what we have!
Larry Webb Larry Webb Friday, December 07, 2012 5:06:03 PM Oh well
Justin Lepine Justin Lepine Friday, December 07, 2012 5:10:22 PM I have been in the fire service 17yrs and it just seem like people don't your smarts when they do thing anymore
Tom Rimmer Tom Rimmer Friday, December 07, 2012 5:11:35 PM Perhaps the family should due the idiot who put hot ashes on a wooden deck, woops then they would have to sue themselves. Stop blaming others for your stupidity and accept responsibity for your own actions
Tom Lewis Jr Tom Lewis Jr Friday, December 07, 2012 5:12:19 PM It is time to put an end to the volunteer system! Its time we brought the fire department back into the realm of skilled professional!
Justin Lepine Justin Lepine Friday, December 07, 2012 5:12:58 PM Use
Jim Christie Jim Christie Friday, December 07, 2012 6:10:14 PM From their website: The Scottsbluff Fire Department located in the Public Safety Building at 1801 Avenue B, provides fire suppression, emergency medical services, hazardous materials, dive rescue, and rope rescue responses to the community. During 2011, the department responded to 68 fires, 1,036 EMS calls, 355 hazardous condition calls, and 322 various other types of calls. The department uses a combined staffing approach with a Career Chief, 12 Firefighters, 3 Captains, a Fire Prevention Officer and 7 volunteer Firefighters. The career side of the department is comprised of 3 shifts, each working a 48-hour shift to provide 24/7 coverage with volunteers responding as-needed. All career Firefighters are cross trained as EMTs and provide basic life support, keeping current with all national standards. The Scottsbluff Fire Department is an active member of the Scotts Bluff County Mutual Aid Association and provides mutual aid to many other local fire departments. An automatic aid agreement exists between Scottsbluff and Gering departments to allow for a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) to be formed at most structure fires in either city.
Drew Placencio Drew Placencio Friday, December 07, 2012 6:10:30 PM Us responders try our absolute best to respond quickly and safely. It is not our fault that drivers talk on the phone and don't notice our lights and sirens, or don't yield properly, or have their music too loud and do not notice us. People do not understand how much we go through to help them.
Jack Nelson Jack Nelson Friday, December 07, 2012 6:18:11 PM Someone is looking at the FD as their lottery, because of family stupidity. I hope the FD. counters sue's the family & their attorney! Did this residence have working smoke alarms?
Michael W Alexander Sr Michael W Alexander Sr Friday, December 07, 2012 6:39:58 PM Wow all the controversy over paid or volunteer. Guys we are supposed to be a brotherhood. Alot of small towns and rural areas depend on volunteer departments. The issue here is not paid or volunteer, its stupidity of a family to not take their own blame. Just another case of an ambulance chasing Lawyer.
Ben Maguire Ben Maguire Friday, December 07, 2012 6:57:36 PM unless the family were firefighters themselves how do they know that the fd did something wrong.therefore if they were ff`s then why did they not act to save the man.must have been watching too many movies.
Paul Sarge Osowski Paul Sarge Osowski Friday, December 07, 2012 7:49:31 PM Tom Lewis Jr must be a paid FF with an attitude about volunteer FFs. Volunteers do what you do, but not for the money like you do. Volunteer FFs are skilled professionals that get paid a fraction of what you get paid. Last I checked over half the FFs in the US are unpaid professionals.
William D. York Jr. William D. York Jr. Friday, December 07, 2012 8:14:18 PM cant fix stupid!
Brett Lunsford Brett Lunsford Friday, December 07, 2012 8:44:41 PM I am a career firefighter and hate the paid vs volunteer debate. I work for a combination department who's volunteer firefighters work just as hard and execute their job just as well as my paid guys.
Jon Whiskey Jon Whiskey Friday, December 07, 2012 9:08:18 PM I can't even believe my eyes right now...Let me wrap my head around this, the family of a man who is NINETY TWO YEARS OLD is going to try and sue because the ONLY people who showed up to try and help their...grandfather I'd imagine, didn't do a good enough job? Are they serious? How about if NO ONE SHOWED UP? how about if they realize they shouldn't have left him there alone? What if the Police there decided that leaving him home alone was endangering the old man's life and took THEM to jail? An accident occurred, someone died...IT HAPPENS PEOPLE. Last thing, who the hell is this lawyer to decide what is a reasonable response and how to be prepared for a fire? I'd be more than willing to bet my next month's check that he knows JACK and CRAP about firefighting.
WestLaurens FireDept WestLaurens FireDept Friday, December 07, 2012 9:21:08 PM Seriously? What is the world coming too!
Robert Christian Robert Christian Friday, December 07, 2012 10:07:35 PM SERIOUSLY?
Desiree Racquel Stafford Desiree Racquel Stafford Friday, December 07, 2012 11:40:45 PM That is terrible that they are suing. One firefighters choose to risk their lives and two the man had lived a full life. Life happens. Next time put the ashes in a metal container or make sure they aren't hot.
Donald Taapken Donald Taapken Saturday, December 08, 2012 7:45:20 AM Putting hot ashes on the back porch does not justify individual dying.Other details unkonw to use may or may not tell us whom is total at fault. We do know individual who put ashes on porch was at fault. Was Mr Blanco at home by himself? Was he the one to put ashes there on the porch? Did first on scene arrive without proper equipment? When first on scene was it safe to enter building? These are questions that need to be answered before we comment. We do have what I call ambulance chasers. that are so-call lawyers who contact people after an incident and promise them money.Then we have sue happy people that is always looking for a way to sue someone. We don't need either.
Derick Hughes Derick Hughes Saturday, December 08, 2012 8:09:34 AM Ok being both a Career and Volunteer this point of discussion on the article is pointless and wrong. Volunteers are needed and very important, but they do come under a lot of scrutiny for a lot of pitfalls they get into and get publicized and sterotyped throughout the US (Strength comes in numbers but so do the mistakes) @Joe you may say Volunteers go through the same amount of Training, that is nowhere near accurate.. Maybe where your from they do for initial certification but you compare hour to hour annually and whats required and you will see a significant difference.
Derick Hughes Derick Hughes Saturday, December 08, 2012 8:10:56 AM @Denis wheres those statistics and studies?
Charlie Wall Charlie Wall Saturday, December 08, 2012 10:27:30 AM There isn't really enough information in the article to make any assumption as to the preparedness of the department. We don't know whether the stations were manned 24/7 or not, and we don't know about the availability of personnel at the time of the alarm. What we do know is that a department is going to be dragged through the mud by a greedy family and an ambulance chasing attorney because of the decision of a 92 year old man. We know nothing of the man's mental capacity, but assuming that his mind was clear, we have to wonder why someone would put hot ashes in a container that was neither fireproof nor approved for hot materials. On the surface, someone puts hot ashes into a container that wasn't fire resistant or fireproof, and then placed them on a back porch instead of disposing of them safely and properly. Ron White said it best: "You can't fix stupid."
Steven Snyder Steven Snyder Saturday, December 08, 2012 11:50:24 AM The family has no right to sue, It is negligence on the homeowners side. Response had nothing yo do with it.The wife escaped and is wanting to sue and that's not right.We are not allowed to break laws just to arrive to a scene faster.
Kevin Bloss Kevin Bloss Saturday, December 08, 2012 2:28:17 PM not a lot information in the article, like how long did the fire dept. take, road conditions, time of day. I feel sad for the family and the firefighters, there isn't anything good going to come about this.
Amy Howard Amy Howard Saturday, December 08, 2012 7:31:10 PM If your SOG/SOP states you have 2 in 2 out then those 3 had the right to stand and watch the fire until that 4th person arrived, ALSO the 2008 Fire Protection handbook states a residential dwelling should have no less than 14 fire personel. We are firefighters our safety is number one over the incident , WE DIDn't CAUSE THE PROBLEM.
Jon Whiskey Jon Whiskey Saturday, December 08, 2012 8:27:43 PM Very true sir, last time I checked it's just over 73% in the USA for volunteers. I've been a volunteer for 2 years but have never received a penny for my work risks or injuries. The only reason why I want to be a professional FF is so that I don't have to bother with other jobs to pay my bills. It's all I want to do. It's sad the paid guys see a difference, because it's the same job, same risk, but NO pay...
Jon Whiskey Jon Whiskey Saturday, December 08, 2012 8:29:32 PM Joe Buske ya but you notice all these rural areas have money to pay for police and sheriffs huh?...wonder why that is? Why aren't the COPS volunteer?
John Eckholm John Eckholm Sunday, December 09, 2012 2:49:35 PM This article does not give enough about what happened. Many thing how long was the response time was etc.
Sharon Bloss Craglow Sharon Bloss Craglow Sunday, December 09, 2012 5:02:16 PM i agree people are so Sue.happy these days i'm ashamed of them. So Sad
Terry Zwiebel Terry Zwiebel Monday, December 10, 2012 5:20:57 AM This is a combination department so don't put anything on the volunteers. Just another case of I screwed up you must pay!
Joseph Hebert Joseph Hebert Monday, December 10, 2012 7:47:17 AM All Fire Departments need to be properly staffed, trained and prepared to respond to ALL emergencies in their jurisdictions. Not only for the good of the department but for the good of all the people and property we are sworn to protect. It does not matter whether an incident was accidental, on purpose, due to negligence or otherwise. Many in our business fail to understand that people that do not have our training, education, and experience may not know of the dangers that we do. This fire could have been caused by a multitude of things. This cause of an incident has nothing to do with the responsibility that "Public Safety" has in it's responsibility to protect people and property.
Cheryl Granger Cheryl Granger Monday, December 10, 2012 9:47:53 AM These volunteers risk their lives for us all the time . Thanks for sharing your feelings Mathew I am with you on that!
Mike Coen Mike Coen Monday, December 10, 2012 10:12:49 AM who else are you going to call? excusing the stupidity and suing those who come to help.
Monday, December 10, 2012 10:56:34 AM In reguards to Mr. Lewis Jr.'s comment, I normally don't engage in this paid vs voll. debate and yes I am a volunteer, but it was a paid dept that was called to a working structure fire pulled up and didn't see the address at the street and instead of walking back a long driveway and verifing the address left the scene and was called back a couple hours later to a fatality at that home. We all make mistakes reguardless of pay or no pay. So lets for once just put this pay vs no pay behind us. We are all professionalls and out there doing the same thing saving lives and protecting property. Be safe all my brothers out there and god bless you all.
Amy Howard Amy Howard Monday, December 10, 2012 3:02:25 PM Sure all departments should be properly staffed and trained, but in case you didn't know it, staffing is an ever growing issue in the volunteer world. I takes multiple departments these days to safely begin fire fighting activities.
Dan Feeney Dan Feeney Friday, December 14, 2012 1:35:40 PM A firefighters first responsibilty is to preserve the safety of himself and his men. That's so they can rescue others without becoming a part of the problem. That takes time to set up - probably a luxury they did not have. The real issue here is why the courts won't allow the firefighters and their departments, to sue the lawyer that falsly accuses them and make him/her pay big time if they lose - that's the only long term solution that will work. Capt Dan 21 years a volunteer.
Daniel Lowe Daniel Lowe Friday, December 21, 2012 6:27:47 AM Idiots. Hope you rot in hell

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