California Man Sues Wood Mill for Starting Wildfire That Burned Down His Home

by Joe Rutland
(Photo Courtesy Getty Images)

Reportedly, a California man is suing a wood products company after he lost his home in a wildfire back in September. The company is at the center of this blaze. Robert Davies, 61, is accusing it of failing to address any risk of a fire starting on the property. When the fire started, it did near a place called the Roseburg Forest Products Co. mill. This was on Sept. 2 in Weed, which is near the California-Oregon border.

The wildfire would burn down more than six square miles, destroyed 118 buildings, and kill two people. Reportedly, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is still investigating this fire’s cause. Fox News reports that the mill produces its own electricity from wood remnants. This is a process that produces hot ash. It gets sprayed with water from a machine. As far as the company goes, it says that it is investigating whether that machine failed to cool the ash enough. It could have led to the fire getting started. The machine actually comes from a third party.

Wildfire Leads Company To Provide Compensation To Victims

Back on Tuesday, lawyers for Davies did sue the company. They say that the company did not make sure that the machine was three things: adequately designed, inspected, and maintained. This might make the shed where those ashes were stored into “a tinderbox awaiting a spark.” In the lawsuit, it states that the company relied on employees to put out fires. This was instead of fixing the machine. Because of their work, it resulted in “a number of unreported fires at the facility.”

“It begs the question, what was done from a safety standpoint to be able to address these fires that had occurred by using the correct technology and systems that would not rely solely on humans to be able to intervene,” Frank Pitre, an attorney for Davies, said at a press conference on Wednesday. A company spokesperson would decline to comment. In addition to all of this happening, the company reportedly has set aside $50 million to support victims of the fire. As of now, it has compensated more than 300 people. This does include Davies, who received $5,000. But the lawsuit would say that this wasn’t enough to compensate him for the loss of his home of more than 30 years and everything inside it.

Pitre doesn’t believe that this fire was a freak accident. He says that multiple fires have occurred on the site leading up to the blaze, known as the Mill Fire. It started back on Sept. 2. Pitre adds that the area happens to be notorious for high winds throughout certain parts of the year.