Senate Bill No. 155

(By Senators Tomblin (Mr. President) and Buckalew
By Request of the Executive)

[Introduced January 15, 1998; referred to the Committee
on the Judiciary.]

A BILL to amend and reenact section four, article three, chapter twenty of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, relating to limiting liability of authorized forest firefighters.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That section four, article three, chapter twenty of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:
§20-3-4. Authority and duties of director and others as to forest fires; expenditures for forest fire control; limited liability of firefighters.
Upon receiving notice of any fire which is injuring or endangering forest land within the state, the director, the state forester, or their duly authorized representative, shall employ all necessary means to confine, extinguish or suppress the fire. For these purposes such persons and their employees shall, under the general supervision of the director, have the right and authority to enter upon public or private lands, to destroy fences thereon, to plow such lands, and in case of extreme emergency, to set backfires thereon. Neither the state, nor any agency of the state, nor any duly authorized firefighter complying with, or reasonably attempting to comply with, this article, except in cases of willful misconduct, shall be liable for the death of or injury to any person or for damage to any property as a result of such activity. The state forester and any duly authorized representative may, under the general supervision of the director, employ persons to detect fires which may injure or endanger forest land, and may likewise summon or employ persons to assist in extinguishing such fires, who shall be paid for the actual time so employed, at a rate per hour to be determined by the director: Provided, That the rate per hour shall not exceed the rate per hour paid for any comparable labor or skills by the department of natural resources. Any person so summoned who shall fail or refuse to assist in extinguishing any such fire shall, unless such failure or refusal to assist is due to physical inability, be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Expenditures for detecting, confining, extinguishing or suppressing fires described in this section shall be charged against the state. The state forester or his or her agent shall render to the director, as soon as practicable, a sworn statement with the names of all persons who were summoned or employed to assist in fighting such fires, the time so spent by each, as well as the names of persons who furnished equipment, subsistence or supplies, or transportation therefor, and the amount of money due each for such services, subsistence, supplies or transportation. Requisitions shall be issued and payment of the sums due shall be made in the same manner as is provided for the making of other expenditures by the director.

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to limit the liability of authorized forest firefighters.

Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.