State rejects appeal by employer of firefighter who died in Calif. wildfire

Officials ordered Tehama Transport to stop working after finding the company did not have workers’ compensation insurance

By FireRescue1 Staff

RED BLUFF, Calif. — An attempt by a company to appeal penalties after a firefighter died while battling a wildfire was denied by officials.

KQED reported that Tehama Transport employed Garret Paiz, who died in a water tanker crash while helping fight the Nuns Fire. State workplace regulators ordered the company to stop working after it was revealed the company did not have workers’ compensation insurance.

The company appealed and said its operators are independent contractors, meaning they were not required to provider workers’ comp.

Scott Rubright, Tehama Transport’s lawyer, added that small firms could be potentially put out of business if they are required to treat its workers as full-time employees, and fire departments could be deprived of resources needed to fight large wildfires.

The hearing officer rejected the appeal.

UC Hastings College of the Law professor Veena Dubal said the decision reinforces the need for workers’ comp amongst businesses that contract with Cal Fire.

“This is a dangerous job,” Dubal said. “Your workers are likely to be injured and if they are injured, you need to be carrying workers’ compensation insurance.”

“Due to the wildly uncertain nature of the emergency firefighting component of Tehama Transport’s business, it is impossible for Tehama Transport to maintain actual firefighting employees on an employee payroll,” Rubright said.

Paiz is the third contractor in 16 months to either die or be seriously injured while battling a large California wildfire whose employer did not have workers’ comp.


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