Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Potlatch, DABCO, Clearwater Paper sued over Steep Corner Fire

The State of Idaho is suing an Idaho timber company and its contractor for their alleged involvement in the Steep Corner Fire two years ago; a fire that resulted in the death of 20-year-old firefighter Anne Veseth of Moscow, and burned more 310 acres north of Orofino.

The 56-acre fire began Aug. 10, 2012, 56 miles from Orofino, on a private logging site, and burned both public and private land.

The 11-page lawsuit alleges five counts of negligence and nuisance, and names Potlatch Land and Lumber, Potlatch Forest Holdings, Clearwater Paper Corp., Potlatch Corp., and DABCO Inc., a logging contractor based in Kamiah, as defendants.

The suit doesn’t specify a monetary amount, but does allege that the state spent more than $10,000 fighting the Steep Corner Fire.

According to the lawsuit, the fire began after an incident in which a DABCO logging crew used a cable yarding system that employed a mechanized carriage. The carriage had an internal combustion engine, and according to the suit, the carriage’s spark arrester did not meet Forest Service standards, which are required by law.

When a choker (used to carry logs beneath the carriage) broke while it was under high tension, the carriage swung violently and then flipped, spilling hot metal and carbon from the muffler into dry slash. Sparks from this allegedly caused the fire, according to an Idaho Department of Lands investigation.

The logging crew, despite its attempts to building a fire line and dump water on the fire, was unable to suppress the fire.

The Idaho Department of Lands, as part of an agreement with C-PTPA and the Forest Service, sent fire crews to control and suppress the blaze, thus incurring firefighting-related expenses, according the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants used equipment that was illegal and not properly maintained, and that they failed to take precautions necessary to prevent a fire hazard.

It is unclear at this time why Clearwater Paper was named in the lawsuit.

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