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LDS Church Added as Defendant in $14 M Fire Lawsuit

LDS Church Added as Defendant in $14 M Fire Lawsuit

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Justice Department and state of Utah today added the Mormon church as a defendant in a 14 (M) million dollar lawsuit to recover the costs from the East Fork Fire three years ago.

The government is claiming boys from an LDS sponsored Boy Scout troop start the fire that wound up burning 14-thousand acres of federal and state land in the Unita Mountains.

The initial complaints were filed a year ago against Great Salt Lake Council and the Boy Scouts of America.

Court documents filed today amended those original complaints to add the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Peoa Ward as defendants.

A church spokesman says they are investigating the matter.

The June 28, 2002, fire started inside or near the East Fork of the Bear River Boy Scout Camp, about 35 miles south of Evanston, Wyo. The fire blackened 14,200 acres of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest and caused an estimated $150,000 in damage within the Scout camp to 12 camping sites, a rifle range, climbing towers, some latrines and several thousand feet of water lines.

Flames forced evacuation of the Scout camp, nearby campgrounds and summer homes, and prompted officials to close most of the north slope of the Uinta Mountains to the public.

Utah law requires the people who start fires to pay for the cost of fighting them. The federal complaint seeks redress of $13.3 million for the costs of fighting the fire and reclamation of the charred land. The state attorney general's office is asking for more than $606,000 to cover the state's firefighting expenses.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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