United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California
PacifiCorp Pays $1.22 Million for Damages Caused by the Sims Creek Fire
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — PacifiCorp has paid $1.22 million for the damages caused by the June 2009 Sims Creek Fire, which burned 160 acres of land in the Klamath National Forest in Siskiyou County, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
The Sims Creek Fire ignited on June 23, 2009 on Highway 96 outside of Happy Camp, California when a decaying Douglas fir tree fell across power lines operated by PacifiCorp. Those power lines were operated over National Forest System lands according to a Special Use Permit that expressly required PacifiCorp to maintain clearance around the lines, remove falling limbs and trees, and pay for all resulting damages. Forest Service investigators determined that PacifiCorp failed to identify and remove a 64-foot hazard tree that fell into the lines and started the Sims Creek Fire. PacifiCorp denied liability for the fire yet agreed to pay the entire amount of the bill the Forest Service issued for damages caused by the fire, which included fire suppression costs and burned area emergency rehabilitation.
“Federal public lands are national treasures, and our office will continue to identify those responsible for starting fires and hold them accountable for the damage caused so taxpayers do not have to bear those costs,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “PacifiCorp took responsibility by fully compensating the United States for all damages without requiring time consuming and costly litigation.”
Forest Service Regional Forester Randy Moore stated: “Settlement of these matters without protracted litigation saves the companies and the United States time and money and allows the Forest Service to restore the National Forest System lands burned in the fires more quickly.”
The prompt settlement of the Sims Creek matter caps a landmark year for the United States Attorney’s Office in obtaining settlements for injury to national forests. Earlier this year, the United States reached a record setting settlement valued at $122.5 million with Sierra Pacific and other defendants for damages caused by the Moonlight Fire, and it obtained an additional $29.5 million from settlements of two other wildfires caused by downed power lines (the 2004 Freds Fire and the 2004 Sims Fire).