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We were told in our health and safety course that one of the primary reasons for tour permits is to document what is and is not a Scout activity.


Monday my younger son went to a birthday pool party for a friend. Every kid there was a Cub Scout and a member of the same den. Also there were the den leader, the asst. DL (father of the birthday boy) and the Cubmaster (me). Has something happened it is possible that someone might claim that this was a Scout activity to try and get the BSA insurance to kick in. BSA could use the lack of a tour permit to substantiate that the party was not a BSA activity.


According to the guys teaching the course (interestingly one was a lawyer and the other an MD) it's not necessarily an all or nothing thing (although a lot of people like to make you think it is). If someone gets hurt at a council camp, in uniform at a established Scout activity while following all the other rules, that you forgot a tour permit is not necessarily a fatal flaw. On the otherhand, if by yourself you take your troop to play paintball without a tour permit and something happens, you're pretty well cooked.


But unquestionably, it's a whole lot better to simply hand someone the approved tour permit and smile than it is to pay an attorney big bucks to prove the same point.


As to the fire, I understood the article to say the Scouts were at a council summer camp when the fires occurred.


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I got the following from the Salt Lake Tribune. Apparently it was at a council summer camp (Bear River Boy Scout Camp) where scouts from several troops took part in an overnight to complete the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge that was poorly supervised. Apparently the camp was advised of that there was a ban on open air fires and there were allegedly fires started by the scouts working on the Wilderness Survival merit badge.


The Great Salt Lake Council is disputing the cause of the fire; I guess we'll have to see how this turns out. This is why it is important for Scouts and Scouters to active above reproach.




From the Salt Lake Tribune


Utah and federal authorities filed lawsuits Tuesday against the Boy Scouts of America for allegedly starting a June 2002 wildfire that destroyed more than 14,000 acres in the Uinta Mountains.


Government attorneys are seeking nearly $14 million from the Great Salt Lake Council and the BSA in connection with the so-called East Fork Fire.


The lawsuits -- which offer new details about the alleged origin of the fire -- were apparently a last resort after settlement negotiations failed.


"It's not something we take pleasure in," said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah. "Everyone thinks the Boy Scouts are a wonderful organization, but it doesn't exempt them from responsibility for negligent acts."


Utah law requires people who start wildfires to pay for the cost of putting them out. But Rydalch said her office tries to negotiate settlements within the range of an offender's insurance policy. "We don't seize assets," she said. "We don't want a bunch of pup tents."


She added that when negotiations fail, a lawsuit may provide additional incentive to settle out of court.


The Scouts, however, are apparently denying responsibility for the June 28, 2002, blaze at the East Fork of the Bear River Boy Scout Camp in Summit County.


Said attorney Robert Wallace: "I don't have any comment other than I think there is a question as to how the fire got started and who started the fire."


But according to the lawsuits, the blaze was caused by a group of about 20 scouts -- ages 11 to 14 -- who were spending the night in improvised shelters to earn survival merit badges.


Despite BSA policy requiring at least two adult leaders for all scouting activities, the overnight group was supervised by two 15-year-old boys, the lawsuits state.


And although a ban against open fires was initiated by the Utah State Forester on June 21, the overnight group started numerous fires during the night, the lawsuits allege.


The ban against open fires was widely communicated throughout the scout camp, the lawsuits state, and was known to the two 15-year-olds.


One fire was started by five scouts from Troop 149, which is sponsored by the Peoa Ward, of the LDS Church in Peoa, Utah.


The fire was built on a thick and highly combustible layer of "duff," consisting of dead and decaying woody debris, the suit states. The scouts -- identified in the suit by their initials -- left the next morning without verifying the fire was out, the lawsuits allege.


The fire smoldered in the duff, surfaced later that afternoon and grew into the East Fork Fire, the lawsuits state.


The blaze forced evacuation of the Scout camp, nearby campgrounds and summer homes. At its height, the fire was fought by 1,100 firefighters from around the country.


The suit filed in U.S. district court seeks $13,344,320 for firefighting costs and rehabilitation to damaged land.


"These lawsuits are the result of failed negotiations . . . over a significant period of time," said Paul Warner, U.S. Attorney for Utah, in a news release. "It has become apparent that the negotiation process is not working."


The lawsuit filed in 3rd District Court asks for $606,424 to reimburse the state's firefighting expenses.


"We have done everything possible to try and settle this matter," stated Assistant Utah Attorney General Michael Johnson in the news release. "This is simply the last resort to make sure taxpayers are not left with the bill."


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" ... wildfire that destroyed more than 14,000 acres ... ".


It's interesting that whenever the press reports a fire, they state the number of acres involved and report the land as being "destroyed". Fire is a natural process that has been going on since the beginning of time. The land is not destroyed.

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If it were your land that was "destroyed" when the trees were burned, then it may occur to you that you stand to lose the trees, the wildlife, the vegetation, your livelihood because you depended on the trees or the animals for income or the tourism, your haven from the rest of the world, your home, other's homes, lose of life, lose of money for having others fight the fire.


The forest does not grow back in one day or one week or one year. So, what was is no more for many years to come. Thus, the term destroyed is used to cover things taken from you without your permission or desire. Lose of a forest means that nobody will see that type of forestation again in that area in their lifetime or their children's childrens lifetime. Gone...

Just because fires have been here for ages doesn't mean that we need to burn and hack everything to the ground. It is not a "natural laxative" for the forests.



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Tempted to remark on forests and trees, swamps and alligators, but the issue is simple. A fire alleged to be caused by some Scouts was costly to contain and extinguish. The law allows for recovery of those costs from those responsible. A settlement didn't happen so now a jury or a judge will decide. Let's just wait and see.

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