Federal agencies at odds over Idaho firefighter's death

GRANGEVILLE, Idaho (AP) The U.S. Forest Service is contesting a citation issued against it by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration following the death of a 20-year-old Forest Service firefighter last summer.

OSHA spokeswoman Deanne Amaden told the Lewiston Tribune in a story published Friday that the two agencies are negotiating after each conducted investigations and reached separate conclusions.

Anne Veseth of Moscow died Aug. 12 after being struck and killed by a falling tree while fighting the Steep Corner Fire near Orofino.

OSHA in a report released in February said the Forest Service failed to maintain safe working conditions.

A Forest Service report released the same month concluded that Veseth's death wasn't the result of human error but was due to the inherent dangers of fighting wildfires where risks can't be completely eliminated.

The federal safety agency has already reduced a $14,000 fine against the state firefighting organization, the Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association, to $10,500.

OSHA also modified the association's original citation, after the state objected that it would have required firefighters to leave any fire where standard firefighting orders couldn't be followed or dangerous situations were present. The state contended that the original citation would have prevented personnel from making an initial attack on many fires, allowing them to grow and become more dangerous.

Veseth was in her second season as a wildfire fighter.

She was part of a crew assigned to reinforce a fire line on one perimeter of the 43-acre Steep Corner Fire that burned near Orofino in August when she was struck by the tree and killed.

An anonymous federal reporting system for wildland firefighters indicated that a Montana-based firefighting team declined to join suppression efforts on the Steep Corner Fire the day before Veseth died, citing safety concerns.


Information from: Lewiston Tribune,