Liability for damages from wildfires

Liability for damages from wildfires

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Liability for damages from wildfires is a big issue in California, where utilities PG&E Corp. and Edison International face lawsuits related to fires that were started by powerlines

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Could the Forest Service or BLM be held liable for fires that start on federal land and spread to private property?

Oregon law states that:

2017 ORS 477.092
Liability for destruction of property by wildfire

(2) A person is not liable in a civil action for injury to or destruction of property arising out of a wildfire, except to the extent evidence demonstrates that:

(a) An action or inaction of the person constituted negligence or a higher degree of fault; and

(b) The action or inaction caused or contributed to the cause of the wildfire or caused or contributed to the spreading of the wildfire. [emphasis added]

According to the state, “Oregon’s Defensible Space Law enlists the aid of property owners to better protect their homes and firefighters during encroaching wildfires. The law requires property owners to reduce excess vegetation, which may fuel a fire, around homes and other structures. In some cases, it is also necessary to create fuel breaks along property lines and roadsides.” [emphasis added]

I don’t know that this would apply to the Chetco Bar Fire in southwest Oregon, but in some cases, one might make the case that a failure to take action to reduce the chances of wildfire spreading across property lines (fuels reduction, etc.) might have “contributed to the spreading of the wildfire.”

Superforest

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