Happy Camp residents sue PacifiCorp, allege the utility's negligence cause Slater Fire

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald
Happy Camp's protector Bigfoot stands sentry to  the town amidst a think blanket of smoke. Much of the town was destroyed by the Slater Fire on Sept. 8, 2020.

The family of a person killed in the Slater Fire and several homeowners who lost their homes in the blaze have filed a lawsuit alleging that the fire was caused by PacifiCorp’s negligence.

The lawsuit alleges that the Slater Fire started when PacifiCorp’s power lines came into contact with a nearby tree, according to a press release from Singleton Schreiber McKenzie and Scott, the law firm representing the fire victims.

“Despite a National Weather Service red-flag warning, and being on notice that conditions were extremely dangerous, PacifiCorp negligently failed to de-energize its power lines in the area,” the release states. “As a result, PacifiCorp’s power lines came into contact with nearby trees, which PacifiCorp had failed to properly trim, igniting the deadly fire.”

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The Slater Fire burned more than 157,000 acres and destroyed nearly 200 homes in the Happy Camp area. It began, according to the U.S. Forest Service, on the morning of Sept. 8, 2020 near the Slater Butte Fire Lookout, north of Happy Camp and was swept into the community on gusts of strong wind.

On Dec. 10, the U.S. Forest Service declared the Slater Fire 100% contained but never officially announced the cause of the fire. It’s currently listed as “under investigation” on Inciweb.

“The Slater Fire appears to be a textbook case of a power company’s negligence,” said Gerald Singleton, the founding partner of Singleton Law Firm in the release. “PacifiCorp elected to run above-ground, non-insulated power lines through a forest, creating a serious risk that one of their electrical conductors would come into contact with a tree and start a fire.”

Singleton alleges that PacifiCorp compounded this danger by failing to shut off power, despite being on notice of the dangerous conditions, and “by failing to properly inspect and maintain their equipment, as they had a legal duty to do.”

“As a result of their negligence, Singleton said, “they killed at least one person, destroyed hundreds of homes and left hundreds of people homeless in the dead of winter.”

According to the press release, over the past 20 years, Singleton and his team have represented more than 10,000 victims of utility fires, in multiple states, and has recovered approximately $1 billion in settlements and verdicts for its clients. The firm currently represents thousands of victims of the 2020 Mountain View and Zogg Fires, the 2019 Kincade Fire, the 2018 Woolsey and Camp Fires, the 2017 Thomas and North Bay Fires, and the 2015 Butte Fire.

Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and has lived in Mount Shasta and Weed her entire life.