Fire Boss Gets 90 Days In Thirtymile Case

SPOKANE — Former Forest Service Fire Boss Elreese Daniels was sentenced Wednesday to 90 days on work release for lying to investigators looking into the second deadliest fire in state history.

Daniels, who was in charge of fire crews during the deadly Thirtymile wildfire, was given 90 days work release, ordered to pay a $50 fine, three years of probation with no alcohol.

In probably the harshest part of his sentence, Judge Fred VanSickle restricted Daniels from serving as a firefighter in either a paid or voluntary capacity.

Seven years ago a camper’s fire sparked a wildfire 30 miles north of Winthrop in the Chewuch River Valley. When crews first responded the fire was just 25 acres. It would end as the second deadliest fire in Washington’s history.

Firefighters Devin Weaver, Jessica Johnson, Karen Fitzpatrick, and Tom Craven were part of an ill-fated hot-shot crew that attacked the fire on July 10, 2001.

Crews working in the Chewuch River Valley were ordered to work to keep the fire from crossing the road over to the other side of the canyon. The fire conditions grew steadily worse and jumped the road, trapping 14 firefighters.

The group deployed their fire shelters as the flames approached their positions. By the time the fire had passed through their ranks firefighters Tom Craven, 30; Karen FitzPatrick, 18; Devin Weaver, 21; and Jessica Johnson, 19, had been killed.

In April Daniels pled guilty to two misdemeanor charges of making a false statement in official writing, a major concession between prosecutors and Daniels. Prosecutors had originally sought to charge him with 11 felony counts including four involuntary manslaughter charges.

Daniels pleaded guilty to lying to investigators in that he initially told investigators he told the four that died to come down from some rocks where they deployed their fire shelters and they didn’t.

Prosecutors said back in late April when Daniels entered his plea deal that his admission of making a false statement corrects the record and that Craven, Fitzpatrick, Weaver and Johnson were following orders when they died.