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Roseburg Forest Products begins settlements after Mill Fire

A firefighter puts out smoldering rubble at a home in Lake Shastina after the Mill Fire.
Erik Neumann
A firefighter puts out smoldering wreckage at a home in Lake Shastina after the Mill Fire.

The Oregon-based forest products company is starting to reach settlements with hundreds of plaintiffs.

Roseburg spokesperson Peter Hillan said the company is working with about 700 people on settlement agreements in response to multiple lawsuits that allege the company’s actions caused the fire, which started in September. The amounts of those settlements are confidential.

Hillan said the company is settling to help rebuild communities affected by the fire.

"We can't bring back some of those homes and the memories of those homes and the communities, but extraordinary quick steps involving the plaintiffs’ lawyers and Roseburg [will allow them to] rebuild as quickly as possible," he said.

Maps show that the September 2 fire began at or near Roseburg’s veneer mill in Weed, California. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

Hillan hopes the settlements will be finalized in the next few weeks.

In a press release, Redding attorney Russ Reiner said he’ ll recommend his clients accept the settlements so they can rebuild their neighborhoods.

“The Mill Fire was catastrophic for many families,” Reiner said in the release. “Our clients, the City of Weed and Roseburg want the homes that burned down in Lincoln Heights, Lake Shastina, Hoy Road and elsewhere to be rebuilt. We believe the settlements will help put our clients in a position to rebuild their neighborhoods and communities.”

In spite of the settlements, Roseburg has not admitted responsibility for the fire, which burned nearly four thousand acres. According to Cal Fire, 118 structures were destroyed, and two people were killed.

Jane Vaughan began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media. Jane earned her Master's in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.