Valmeyer sued for 2017 fire

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Pictured, firefighters from four departments work a fire at a shed owned by Bill Dickerson in old Valmeyer.

The owner of a large shed filled with vehicles in Valmeyer that was destroyed by a December 2017 fire has filed a lawsuit against the village, claiming negligence.

William Dickerson II seeks a judgment exceeding $50,000 in each of the two counts of the lawsuit, which was filed last month.

Dickerson’s suit alleges that Valmeyer firefighters discovered that the fire control systems, such as fire hydrants and fire trucks, were not in working order during attempts to control the blaze.

On Jan. 18, Valmeyer’s attorney filed a motion to dismiss the suit, stating the village is entitled to “absolute immunity” from these claims.

A case management hearing is set for Feb. 25.

Firefighters worked well into the morning to contain the large shed fire in the 200 block of School Street in old Valmeyer on Dec. 10, 2017.

Valmeyer Fire Chief Floyd Floarke told the Republic-Times shortly after the fire that the shed was “glowing orange” upon firefighter arrival.

A fire hydrant near the Dickerson home that dates back to before the 1993 flood had no water pressure, so firefighters trucked in water from Moredock Lake, according to a December 2017 article.

“We had some water issues at the very start, but in the end it wouldn’t have made a difference,” Floarke said then. “It was a defensive operation from the start. We were just trying to save the house.”

The presence of fuels and ammunition inside made for a dangerous situation for firefighters in tackling the blaze, Floarke added.

A wood-burning stove was the chief’s “top suspect” in regard to a cause, but he said it was too difficult to determine for sure.

The Maeystown, Columbia and Waterloo fire departments assisted Valmeyer at the scene.

Dickerson’s suit claims the village was negligent or reckless in that it failed to warn residents of the hazardous condition of owning structures adjacent to non-working fire control systems; failed to test, maintain, monitor and repair fire control devices and systems; failed to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance of its fire control systems and was otherwise negligent in the maintenance and upkeep of its fire control systems.

In its motion to dismiss the suit, the village states Dickerson’s claim is subject to the provisions of the Illinois Local Government Tort Immunity Act.

“The plaintiff challenges the condition of the fire hydrants and fire trucks,” Valmeyer’s motion to dismiss states. “These are specifically covered by the immunities.”

The dismiss motion goes on to state that “since there is generally no duty to provide fire protection services, there can be no liability for failure to provide enough water to allow the fire department to extinguish the fire.”

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