The logging company Sierra Pacific Industries has settled a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Government. The suit was filed to reclaim losses suffered as a result of the Moonlight Fire in 2007. Sierra Pacific will pay the government more than $47 million and turn over 22,000 acres of private land.
U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner says Sierra Pacific allowed a sub-contractor to clear brush during a red flag warning. He says the work caused the fire, "The contractor that was, Howell's, that was conducting this work, we believe was responsible for igniting at least two prior forest fires and our allegations in the litigation indicated that Sierra Pacific essentially did nothing to investigate that to do anything about it."
The contractor and landholders will pay $8 million.
William Warne is an attorney for Sierra Pacific. He says the government made up both the time and ignition source of the fire, "Nobody from Howell's was responsible for the fire and once they left at about 1:30, the fire started from another source."
Warne says Sierra Pacific only settled to avoid a possible billion-dollar jury award.
The company is still defending six similar state and local lawsuits.