US Pacific Power utility sued over devastating Oregon wildfires
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Three Pacific Northwest law firms have filed a class action lawsuit against the Pacific Power utility and its parent company, claiming they failed to shut down its power lines despite historically high winds and extremely dangerous wildfire conditions.
The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, names Jeanyne James and Robin Colbert as lead plaintiffs. The couple lost their home, garage and cars in the small community of Lyons, Oregon, to a wildfire that raced through a canyon last month, The Oregonian/OregonLiveThursday.
Climate change doesn't cause wildfires, but here's why it's making them worse
The consequences climate scientists have long been warning about are coming to fruition in the increased intensity of natural disasters around the globe. The consequences climate scientists have long been warning about are coming to fruition in the increased intensity of natural disasters around the globe, recently in the form of devastating wildfires that ravaged the western states and enshrouded areas not plagued with flames under hazes of smoke.
The blaze was one of multiple fires that burned across the state starting on that date. The wildfires destroyed several thousand homes and killed nine people in Oregon and two in northern California. The lawsuit alleged the high winds also toppled energized power lines that sparked some of the blazes.
“Defendants’ energized power lines ignited massive, deadly and destructive fires that raced down the canyons, igniting and destroying homes, businesses and schools,” the lawsuit said. “These fires burned over hundreds of thousands of acres, destroyed thousands of structures, killed people and upended countless lives.”
Oregon fires: Oregon authorities battle conspiracy theories as firefighters fight the flames
Wildfires are raging along the West Coast, and with them authorities in Oregon said they are fighting rumors of political origins. Multiple fires in Washington, Oregon and California have destroyed more than 4.7 million acres and killed at least 34 people. Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have been batting down conspiracy theories that Antifa extremists are setting fires and cutting down power lines, Clackamas County, Oregon, Sheriff Craig Roberts said Wednesday.
Drew Hanson, spokesman for utility parent company PacifiCorp, said the company does not comment on pending litigation. The Portland-based utility has previously said it doesn’t know if its equipment caused any fires.
Fire officials have not yet cited an official cause of the fires. The Northwest Interagency Fire Coordination Center that tracks and coordinates firefighting efforts across the northwestern states said in a report last month that downed power lines were responsible for 13 separate fires along a 30-mile (48-kilometer) stretch of Oregon's Santiam Canyon.
California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, filed for bankruptcy after one of its transmission lines sparked the Camp fire in 2018. That fire devastated the town of Paradise, destroying 11,000 homes and claiming 85 lives.
PG&E’s equipment has been found to have set dozens of fires in recent years, and it faced $30 billion in claims before filing for bankruptcy protection. The utility agreed in May to pay $13.5 billion in cash and stock to settle those claims.
'We could hear the trees exploding': At least 7 dead as swath of wildfires rage across California, Oregon, Washington, other Western states .
California under siege. 'Unprecedented' wildfires in Washington state. Oregon orders evacuations. At least 7 dead. The latest news.More than 90 major fires that have burned more than 5,300 square miles – almost the size of Connecticut – are raging in 13 Western states, according to a count by the National Fire Information Center. At least seven people are confirmed to have died, including three in Butte County, California, according to Sheriff Kory Honea. Another 12 people are missing in Butte County, the sheriff said.