Wildfire Lawsuits Refuse to Extinguish

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Snuffed out

Sometimes when you ignore the law, you may have to face the consequences.  Due to the company’s negligence in a wildfire that took place in 2018, J-Spear Ranch in Paisley, Oregon is left to deal with a second lawsuit filed against them.  While the first lawsuit was initiated by a timber company, this second swing at legal action is taken by the federal government.  The lawsuits intend to hold J-Spear Ranch responsible for the Fremont-Winema National Forest’s Watson Creek Fire. 

The fire left a path of destruction and claimed 59,000 total acres.  Within that total landscape, about 46,000 acres are under the management of the US Forest Service.  In the list of damages mentioned in the second lawsuit, the most debilitating effects include timber loss and habitat destruction.  The environment was placed at risk, as well as the water quality. In addition to the physical harm done to the acreage of land, the fire incurred fire suppression and rehabilitation costs.  In total, the dollar amount placed on the fire’s impact adds up to about $14 million.

In the first lawsuit, filed a month before the second, the timber company alleges that the fire caused a loss of 13,000 acres of land and $7.75 million in necessary reconstruction.  The source of the fire, while pinned on J-Spear Ranch, can more closely be blamed on a mechanical issue.  Fire season rules dictate that ranch vehicles be cleared of all dried vegetation that may lead to a fire.  J-Spear was responsible for an all-terrain vehicle that was not cleared of any caked-on debris and did not come equipped with fire-suppression gear.  The lawsuits do not attribute malice to the cause of the fire, but rather, state that the ranch employee was performing maintenance-related duties when the fire ignited.