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Lawsuit alleges PacifiCorp is responsible for McKinney Fire

McKinney fire .jpeg
Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office
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An image of the McKinney Fire burning near the Oregon-California border in early August.

Five individuals filed a lawsuit against the electric utility PacifiCorp this week. They claim the company’s equipment caused the McKinney Fire, which continues to burn near the Oregon-California border.

The lawsuit alleges that the circumstances surrounding the ignition of the fire were foreseeable and PacifiCorp “negligently, recklessly, and willfully” failed to properly maintain its equipment.

The complaint was filed in Sacramento County Superior Court by San Diego law firm Singleton Schreiber.

The plaintiffs are residents or business owners "whose property and lives were, literally and figuratively, destroyed by the McKinney Fire," according to the complaint. They are seeking damages for loss of property, wages, medical expenses, and personal suffering.

Tom Gauntt, a spokesman for PacifiCorp, declined to discuss the ongoing litigation.

Gerald Singleton, the law firm’s managing partner, says 15 other potential complainants have contacted the firm.

"We have the evidence from PacifiCorp that there was an event [with its equipment] at roughly the start of the fire," Singleton said, which led the firm to have probable cause that PacifiCorp's equipment sparked the blaze.

According to an Aug. 5 investigation by NBC Bay Area, radio communication shows the wildfire started underneath utility lines operated by Pacific Power, which is owned by PacifiCorp.

The McKinney Fire began on July 29. According to the Klamath National Forest, its cause is still under investigation. It has burned over 60,000 acres of Siskiyou County and killed four people. The fire is now 95% contained.

Singleton said he hopes to get a trial date within 12 to 15 months.

California utility Pacific Gas & Electric filed for bankruptcy in 2019 after a series of lawsuits about multiple fires that were started by its equipment.

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 recently earned her Master's in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.