PORTLAND, Ore. — Northwest utility company PacifiCorp has agreed to settle federal allegations that the company's equipment sparked a wildfire in rural Jackson County during 2018.
The Ramsey Canyon fire erupted in August of 2018, during a particularly devastating fire season for southern Oregon. It reached nearly 2,000 acres — threatening homes, prompting evacuation warnings, and destroying one outbuilding.
According to the Portland-based U.S. Attorney's office, the fire started near the base of a PacificCorp transmission line about 12 miles northwest of Eagle Point. It burned on a mix of federal, state, and private land — including 930 acres managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
As a result, the U.S. government sought more than $4.8 million in suppression costs and resource damages, alleging that PacifiCorp was responsible for starting the fire due to an improperly installed, inspected or maintained connector at the transmission structure.
“Each year, countless Oregonians live with the recurring threat of wildfires jeopardizing their safety and personal property. Sadly, thousands of acres of public and private land are burned by preventable fires,” said U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams. “Our office is committed to protecting these lands.”
Though PacifiCorp has agreed to pay $3.4 million to settle the allegations, the settlement is not considered an "admission of liability." PacifiCorp continues to deny responsibility for the fire.
“The loss of these lands and the cost of fighting this fire represent a significant loss to taxpayers, and we’re pleased this settlement will help recoup those costs,” said William Perry Pendley, BLM deputy director for Policy and Programs. “Congratulations to the career BLM employees who provided the expertise to assess the damage done to the public's lands and to recover these costs for the benefit of the American taxpayer.”
The federal government was assisted by the Oregon Department of Forestry in investigating the case.