Wis. FD sues tree service for 2018 forest fire

The fire department is suing for the costs of extinguishing the fire, saying the owner of the tree service caused the fire through negligence


Andrew Dowd
Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Township Fire Department filed a civil lawsuit last week against a local tree service and its insurance carrier, seeking payment of costs to extinguish a 2018 forest fire.

The fire department that handles blazes in five towns outside of Eau Claire city limits is suing Lucas Mahal, the town of Pleasant Valley-based business Tree Savvy that he co-owns and the company that insures it.

Township Fire Department is seeking payment of a $17,242 bill for labor and materials used to extinguish a blaze that burned 124 acres on April 30, 2018, according to the lawsuit.

The fire consumed brush, grass, pine trees and spread to a rural residential area along Highway F in the town of Pleasant Valley. All told, 66 firefighters and 20 vehicles from multiple fire departments responded to put out the blaze.

Township Fire Department traced the cause of the fire back to a large burn pile at Lucas Mahal’s property, who is an owner of the tree service and runs the business there.

“Lucas Mahal, individually, and as the owner of Tree Savvy LLC set a fire on his land and allowed the fire to escape and become a forest fire,” Eau Claire attorney Allison Shepard wrote on behalf of Township Fire Department.

The lawsuit, which was filed April 29, calls Mahal negligent and holds him responsible for paying the costs for extinguishing the fire.

The fire department sent the bill to Mahal in July 2018, but received no payment. Additional invoices and past due letters were sent three times in late 2018.

Tree Savvy’s liability insurer, Edina, Minn.-based Western National Mutual Insurance Co., has been in contact with Township Fire Department, but there’s been no resolution of the bill, according to the lawsuit.

When reached earlier this week by the Leader-Telegram, Mahal said he had no comment on the matter.

A Leader-Telegram article written about the April 30, 2018 fire in Pleasant Valley noted that Eau Claire County was among numerous Wisconsin counties rated as having very high fire danger on that day due to dry and windy conditions. The wildfire risk in the state prompted then-Gov. Scott Walker to declare a state of emergency to authorize more resources to help local fire departments, according to Leader-Telegram archives.

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©2020 the Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wis.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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