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SACRAMENTO, Calif. February 3, 2017 – Soper-Wheeler Company LLC has agreed to pay $1.7 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the United States for damages resulting from a 2009 wildfire that burned 307 acres of national forest land, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced today.
The fire, known as the “Silver Fire,” ignited on September 19, 2009, on a steep hillside along Silver Creek, near the community of Spanish Ranch. The lawsuit alleged that a chainsaw being used by Soper-Wheeler’s employees to clear a blockage in a water pipeline struck rocks, causing sparks that ignited dry vegetation. By the time the fire was suppressed, 307 acres of the Plumas National Forest had been burned.
Soper-Wheeler is a timber company that conducts logging operations throughout Northern California. It is based in Strawberry Valley, California. Soper-Wheeler had a Special Use Permit, which allowed it to use or occupy lands in the Plumas National Forest. Settlement documents filed with the court require payment of $1.7 million to resolve the lawsuit.
“We are very pleased with this settlement, which goes a long way toward compensating the public for the expense of fighting the fire and restoring these public lands,” U.S. Attorney Talbert said. “Those who use public lands in California must be vigilant. We will continue to aggressively pursue compensation from those who are responsible for wildfires that damage our precious national resources.”
“Burned areas frequently require some restoration work in order to return them to a resilient state. These settlement funds help us reach our ecological restoration goals in these areas,” said U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore.
In the last five years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has secured settlements in 20 different cases involving wildfire damage to federal lands, with settlements valued at nearly $200 million.
This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen M. Kennedy handled the case.