$1.9 million awarded to property owner for Corral fire damages

2013-10-24T00:15:00Z $1.9 million awarded to property owner for Corral fire damagesBy EVE BYRON Independent Record Helena Independent Record
October 24, 2013 12:15 am  • 

Kevin DeTienne has been awarded $1.9 million for damages he incurred when his home and property were burned during last year’s Corral fire.

But his attorney notes that DeTienne probably will only see a fraction of that amount, since more than 30 other property owners also filed to collect damages from Robert Fitte and his insurance companies. Under a recent federal court ruling, Fitte’s $1 million commercial liability policy can be used to cover some of the compensation costs, and his $300,000 homeowner’s policy also can be used.

DeTienne’s attorney, Thomas Budewitz, noted that one other nearby resident already has been awarded a $500,000 judgment, so now there’s $2.4 million in judgments but only $1.3 million available in compensation.

The $300,000 from one insurance company has been deposited with the court, but they’re still waiting for the other $1 million. The money will be dispersed through mediation.

“Once they bring in all the other claims, I have no idea how much my client will recover,” Budewitz said. “Everybody who has been damaged will be able to make a claim against that $1.3 million, but obviously it will not be enough to pay for all of the losses.”

Curt Drake, an attorney representing Fitte, said his client feels terrible about the losses people suffered and is continuing to try to work with his neighbors to come to some sort of resolution.

“These people were his neighbors, and he wants to do right by them,” Drake said. “We’re still hopeful that we can help and Mr. Fitte’s insurers can help by providing a forum through mediation to find a way they can all reach agreements among themselves as to how the $1.3 million will be split.”

Fitte had an activated permit on the June 23, 2012, weekend to burn piles of dead branches and tree limbs killed by the mountain pine beetle epidemic and thought he had fully extinguished the fire. However, when the wind picked up on June 25, 2012, the embers sparked into a wildfire that burned across about 1,800 acres in the Scratchgravel Hills north of Helena and consumed four homes.

Fitte was not charged with any criminal activity in the matter.


Reporter Eve Byron: 447-4076 or eve.byron@helenair.com. Follow Eve @IR_EveByron.

Copyright 2016 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(4) Comments

  1. justme59601
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    justme59601 - October 24, 2013 1:50 pm
    what does foxnews have to do wtih this?? please explain your idiotic comment.
  2. E-reader
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    E-reader - October 24, 2013 12:55 pm
    Mostly I am reading empathy for Mr Fitte. Would you feel the same if you were a property loser? Its silly to say this was an act of God. Are you from FOX news? A fire was started by Mr Fitte during a hot and unstable period. Did Mr Fitte exercise good judgment here? I hope the property losers can be made whole. And yes our God is a God of second chances.
  3. GreatWhite
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    GreatWhite - October 24, 2013 11:58 am
    I agree with I'm Just Sayin...Mr. Fitte feels pretty bad as it is, and covering 1.3 M already via insurance sounds very fair and just. Demanding compensation beyond a man's means is basically kicking him when he's already down. I remember that day, and can't even come close to feeling what he must feel, especially when had done everything by the book.

    It sounds like 'justice' has already been served on this one...let him move forward.
  4. I'm Just Sayin
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    I'm Just Sayin - October 24, 2013 7:53 am
    I feel so bad for the folks that lost homes and had property damage due to the fire. I also feel horrible for Mr Fitte. I was out and about that day at the time that fire blew up. It was ungodly hot, and dry, a dry i had not experienced in well over 20 years. I had said to a friend how scary dry it is, and how we could be in for a horrid fire season. It wasn't even an hour later I was getting calls to help move livestock out of the path of the Corral fire.
    No one lit a fire that day, Mr Fitte was actually doing a good thing trying to curb the abundant fuel in dead trees from his property, the weekend before. The fire that engorged Scratch Gravel, was fueled by an act of God, no negligence, no fault of this man. I do hope that some relief can be found in rebuilding the physical losses that were incured, with the insurance money. I also hope that those effected, and those that render opinions on the same can see beyond what the money grubbing insurance companies want to see and release Mr Fitte from the "blame" in this tragic fire, Insurance companies cant sue God, so they go after the deapest pocket they can find..

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