California timber company to pay $50 million for starting fire

Sierra Pacific, a timber company in California, has agreed to pay nearly $50 million and donate 22,500 acres of land to settle a federal government lawsuit over the Moonlight fire that burned about 65,000 acres in 2007, including 46,000 acres in the Plumas and Lassen National Forests in the northern part of the state.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said the fire was caused by two dozer operators working on a red flag warning day.

Here is an excerpt from an Associated Press article:

Wagner’s office claimed employee negligence led to the growth of the fire. The person who was designated to watch for fires left the work area and drove 30 minutes to get a soda, and when he returned more than an hour later, there was a 100-foot wall of smoke, he said.

In addition, there was no access to fire suppression equipment at the site, Wagner said.

He estimated firefighting costs at $22.5 million.

The settlement includes a cash payment of $47 million from Sierra Pacific, a $7 million payment from private landowners and managers of the property where the fire started, and $1 million from the logging contractor.

Wagner estimated the value of the land at $67.5 million, but Sierra Pacific challenged that number, noting the U.S. Forest Service has not yet selected the land to be donated.

 

Thanks go out to Dick

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+