United States Reaches $9 Million Settlement for Damages Caused by Forest Fire
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Kernen Construction Co. and Bundy & Sons Logging have collectively agreed to pay $9 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the United States for damages resulting from a 2012 wildfire that burned more than 1,600 acres of national forest land, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced today.
The fire, known as the “Flat Fire,” ignited on July 11, 2012, along the side of Highway 299 west of Weaverville, California. Logging equipment owned by Bundy & Sons was being hauled by Kernen Construction when it became unsecured and dragged along the highway, causing sparks that ignited dry vegetation. By the time the fire was suppressed, 1,688 acres had been burned, almost all of which was located within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The fire cost more than $4.6 million to suppress and damaged environmental resources, including habitat for sensitive species such as the Northern Spotted Owl.
The United States sought to recover damages from Kernen Construction and Bundy & Sons for their failure to properly secure the equipment that started the fire. Under the settlement announced today, Kernen Construction will pay $6 million to settle the dispute, and Bundy & Sons will pay $3 million. Defendants deny liability for the fire.
“This settlement goes a long way toward compensating the public for the expense of fighting the fire and the damage to public lands,” U.S. Attorney Scott said. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively pursue recovery against those whose carelessness damages our precious national resources.”
“This is a reminder that the public has a major role to play in fire safety,” said USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore. “Everyone must remain vigilant, especially during our extended fire season. We thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their work in this case.”
Since 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California has secured settlements in more than 25 different cases involving wildfire damage to federal lands, with total settlements valued at nearly $200 million.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Colleen M. Kennedy and Benjamin J. Wolinsky handled the case.