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Settlement Reached with Boy Scouts in Federal Uinta Wildfire

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Federal prosecutors have reached a $6.5 million settlement with the local chapter of the Boy Scouts over a June 2002 wildfire that burned 14,200 acres in the Uinta Mountains.

Insurance policies held by the Great Salt Lake Council through the national office of the Boy Scouts of America will pay the settlement, council spokesman Kay Godfrey said.

Federal prosecutors had sought more than $13.4 million from the Scouts to cover the costs of the fire, which was started by 17 Scouts ages 12 to 14 who were working on a wilderness survival badge at Camp Tomahawk.

The case was headed for trial in February, but was delayed when settlement negotiations began, said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney for Utah.

"We thought that this was a fair and just settlement," Rydalch said. "Generally a settlement is not everything that everybody wants, it's a compromise that brings resolution."

Godfrey declined further comment and said local council leaders planned to a formal response Wednesday.

A settlement agreement in a separate lawsuit with the state of Utah, the national Boy Scouts organization agreed to pay $330,000 and plant 9,000 seedlings.

No adults were present at the time the fire was started, although two 15-year-old counselors were in the group of Scouts. In depositions, Scouts said they extinguished the fire with water, urine and dirt and then slept next to the site.

A judge ruled, however, that no one conducted a "cold-out test," in which someone can safely run a hand through the coals and ashes that ensures a fire is fully extinguished.

An order dismissing the case has not been signed by U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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