First lawsuit filed against Mill Fire alleging the lumber company knew about the unsafe conditions for years


A Weed family filed the first complaint on Thursday following the deadly Mill fire, alleging the logging company at the center of the blaze investigation started the blaze and ignored the dangers.

The lawsuit was filed in Sacramento County Superior Court on behalf of five members of the Hammond family who lost their homes Sept. 2 after the factory fire ripped through the small town near the US border. ‘Oregon. It comes a day after Roseburg Forest Products released a lengthy statement saying it was investigating whether its veneer plant’s cogeneration plant equipment had failed to adequately cool the ashes from burning the wood.

“The defendants were well aware of the dangers of the operations for many years,” the Hammonds claimed in the lawsuit which alleged negligence, trespass and private and public nuisance. “Despite knowledge of a significant fire hazard, the defendants ignored the dangers and continued to engage in unsafe practices.”

The Siskiyou County Fire burned nearly 4,000 acres, killing two women, injuring three others and destroying 118 structures. No cause has been determined for the Firewhich is 75% contained, but firefighters first saw flames in a storage warehouse on the factory’s sprawling property.

On Wednesday, Roseburg released a statement saying they were investigating whether a water spray machine failed to cool the ash byproduct sufficiently and potentially started the deadly fire.

“When we looked close to the origin of the fire, this piece of machinery is one of the few items in this area that could be the cause,” said Pete Hillan, a public relations expert hired to speak. on behalf of the company, to The Chronicle on Thursday.

The ash byproduct must have a certain level of moisture and pH to be in the stable range, he said.

“We need to determine if the machine was working properly and whether or not it was working, what impact did that potentially have on the fire,” he said.

Hillan said the company hasn’t seen the lawsuit, so he couldn’t comment on the allegations. A Cal Fire spokeswoman said Thursday she could not comment on the company’s comments regarding the possible faulty equipment that started the fire.

James Frantz, the Hammonds’ Sacramento-based attorney, said he is representing other fire victims and plans to file more lawsuits in the coming weeks. He said he was “disturbed” to see the statement released by the company which promised to create a $50 million community restoration fund.

“They’re trying to nip it in the bud,” he said. “Throw $50 million in the air and see if that’s the end of it.

“We are going to find out exactly who is at fault,” Frantz continued. “These people who suffered need justice and answers to what happened and we need to change Roseburg’s behavior.”

Matthias Gafni is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: matthi[email protected]: @mgafni

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