USFS bills power company $38 million for starting Las Conchas Fire

Las Conchas fire
Las Conchas Fire, 7-14-2011. Photo by Andrew Ashcraft, Granite Mountain Hotshots.

The U.S. Forest Service has sent a $38 million bill to the electric cooperative that operated the power line that started the Las Conchas Fire in June, 2011. The blaze burned 156,000 acres and 63 structures in the Jemez Mountains west of Los Alamos, New Mexico near the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

An interagency investigative team led by New Mexico State Forestry determined that the fire was caused by a fallen tree that caught fire after coming into contact with nearby power lines, according to New Mexico State Forester Tony Delfin.

In addition to the USFS, others seeking compensation from the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative include two pueblos, several insurance companies, and dozens of property owners. Some of the claims also name the USFS which granted the power company an easement for the power line.

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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.

3 thoughts on “USFS bills power company $38 million for starting Las Conchas Fire”

  1. I guess I am missing it, too

    After being in all risk all hazard world for the last 7 plus years and having AAR’s drilled into my head and have the same being done for 23 yrs in the military…….

    Proves to me the LMA world of SAIT’s and AAR’s are some how exempt from everyone else’s definition of what has bee defined.

    Fully agree with Gordie………

    1. It is the reponsibility of the permit holder to insure that their use of the forest will not be predisposed to wildfire starts amongst many others. It is almost negligent for a company to obviously disregard the multitude of snags that will fall onto their powerline. Sure it takes money which a small co-op may not have but is it ok for such company to have such a devastating wildfire a result of their inaction? Some states have laws regarding veg removal along powerlines and subject power poles, conditions that are widely known to have started fires. Does the permit user have no responsibility to prevent catastrophes?

  2. Huh. I guess I’m missing the picture. A tree falls and the property user is billed for the damage?

    The guidelines for SAIT is to create that fixes no blame, it somehow seems to me one of these actions (or both) creates a precedent.


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