Skip to: [ search ] [ menus ] [ content ] Select style [ Aqua ] [ Citrus ] [ Fire ] [ Orange ] [ show/hide more content ]

California’s largest timber company to pay almost $50 M in wildfire lawsuit

Sierra Pacific Industries denied liability, but agreed to pay almost $50 million and donate 22,500 acres of land to settle a lawsuit over the Moonlight Fire in 2007, which burned almost 65,000 acres (260 km²) in Northern California. Federal prosecutors said that the fire was caused by two unsupervised employees who operated bulldozers on a red-flag warning day with high fire danger.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said that company contractors who were working on private land failed to follow fire regulations and started the wildfire that burned more than 46,000 acres of public land in Plumas and Lassen National Forests northwest of Lake Tahoe over the course of two weeks! Wagner said that the settlement is the largest federal recovery for damages caused by a forest fire. An attorney for the timber company, William Warne, said federal prosecutors would not have been able to prove at a trial that the company was responsible for the fire, but the pre-trial ruling of a judge led attorneys to believe Sierra Pacific might be forced to pay damages anyway. According to

The case is part of a broader battle over limiting the amount of damages that government agencies can recover from private companies when fire damages public land. California law allows courts to award damages up to three times the value of the trees or estimated value of the damage to public land. <emphasis mine>

Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, was unsuccessful this year in establishing a limit as part of the latest state budget. Federal officials and environmentalists opposed the legislation, which is likely to be debated again this year in the state Legislature.

And then there is the issue of the VERY expensive soda (“pop” to those of you in the part of the country I come from)….

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.

You can quibble about details, but I am willing to bet that Sierra Pacific will be giving some fire safety instruction to its employees and contractors in the future that they likely would not have given without the lawsuit and high penalty.

-Bill at

Cheshire Cat Photo™ – “Your Guide to California’s Wonderland™”

You can view higher-resolution photos at the Cheshire Cat Photo™ Pro Gallery on Shutterfly™, where you can also order prints and gifts decorated with the photos of your choice from the gallery. The Cheshire Cat Photo Store on Zazzle® contains a wide variety of apparel and gifts decorated with our images of California. All locations are accessible from here. LIKE Cheshire Cat Photo on Facebook here! If you don’t see what you want or would be on our email list for updates, send us an email at

No Comments to “California’s largest timber company to pay almost $50 M in wildfire lawsuit”

  (RSS feed for these comments)

InspectorWordpress has prevented 52153 attacks.
Get Adobe Flash player