3 years following a fire, a grand jury released an indictment last week accusing a Fire Chief of felony involuntary manslaughter in a wildfire-related fatality in 2017. Between July 17, 2017 and July 29, 2017, Chief Mike Dell’Orto of the Mokelumne Hill FPD allegedly “unlawfully, and without malice,” killed David Rios “in the commission of a lawful act which might have produced death, in an unlawful manner, and without due caution and circumspection,” the indictment reads. Chief Dell’Orto, 74, was booked and released at the Calaveras County Jail lobby July 8 after posting a $25,000 bail.
The timeline in the indictment is during a 117-acre wildland fire known as the Maria Fire ignited off and Rios, the victim named in the indictment, sustained third degree burns over 90% of his body as a result of the fire. Rios “was pinned between a wire fence surrounding (his) home and the flames that shot up a nearby hill in less than a minute” when the fire got to him.
NOTE: While there is nothing specific public on this yet, this one should be watched by all fire officers as it very well may point out to issues related to command, control, communication and accountability.