Forest Service ‘burn boss’ case dismissed

By Marc Heller | 06/07/2024 01:40 PM EDT

A reckless burning charge against Rick Snodgrass was dismissed after his lawyers had the case moved to federal court.

Malheur National Forest

The entrance to the Malheur National Forest near John Day, Oregon, is shown in December 2016. An October 2022 planned fire at the forest spread onto a ranch during unanticipated windy conditions and burned about 18 acres. Andrew Selsky/AP

A federal court in Oregon has dismissed charges against a Forest Service “burn boss” whose prescribed fire in the Malheur National Forest in 2022 escaped onto a ranch.

The case against Rick Snodgrass, who’d been indicted by a Grant County grand jury on a misdemeanor charge of reckless burning, was dismissed after his lawyers moved it to U.S. District Court for Oregon and argued he was immune from state prosecution.

State prosecutors didn’t object, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Hallman dismissed the case Wednesday.


In addition to Snodgrass’ immunity under the Constitution’s “supremacy clause,” his lawyers said, prosecutors didn’t demonstrate that he’d acted recklessly in supervising the planned fire on Oct. 19 of that year.