Union Gap city officials have denied any wrongdoing in connection with a 2017 wildland fire near Selah blamed on members of the Yakima SWAT team.
In court papers filed in Yakima County Superior Court last week, Union Gap’s attorneys accused the state Department of Natural Resources of conducting a “flawed investigation” that concluded a SWAT team member’s bullet fired during training caused the June 27, 2017, fire off South Wenas Road.
“Defendant Union Gap expressly denies the legitimacy of the investigation and conclusions of said report, the contents of which speak for itself,” according to court documents.
Union Gap was named as a defendant along with Yakima and Yakima County in a lawsuit filed by property owners in the South Wenas Road area in late May seeking unspecified damages connected to the fire. The county and cities are being sued because the Yakima SWAT team consists of Yakima County sheriff’s deputies and officers from Yakima and Union Gap police departments.
Among the plaintiffs are Haywire Outfit Inc., which sells alfalfa hay, and Doug and Bronwyn Mayo, owners of the Wenas Mammoth site.
On June 27, 2017, a wildfire was reported along South Wenas Road about 9 miles north of Selah. By the time it was contained three days later, the flames had scorched 3,000 acres.
An investigation by the DNR found that a power line was cut by a bullet fired from a range where two Yakima SWAT officers were target shooting, sparking the fire. Bullets also struck a power pole and severed a ground line, according to the DNR’s report.
The land the range was on was rented by a Union Gap police officer who also serves as a sniper on the SWAT team. That officer was not present during the training exercise, the report said.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege that the fire damaged their property, including fencing and grasslands, and caused emotional distress.
Helen Harvey, senior assistant city attorney for Yakima, said the city does not comment on pending litigation.
Calls to Yakima County were referred to Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Brusic, who was not available for comment Thursday.