Oregon Seeking To Recoup Over $40 Million in Wildland Fire Costs From Responsible Parties

The State of Oregon is pursuing the people it considers responsible for causing three wildland fires that cost the state over $40 million to fight.

The largest of the three claims was filed against Dominic Decarlo, 70, and Cloyd Deardorff, 64. The pair are accused of accidentally starting the Stouts Creek Fire with a mower on July 30, 2015. The fire burned over 26,000 acres and cost the state $37 million to control. The state sent Decarlo and Deaddorff a bill, which if not paid may lead to a collection suit.

The state filed suit against two other sets of parties responsible for wildland fires that occurred in the summer of 2014.

John Lee Habberstad, a rancher in Eastern Oregon, is being sued for $3.7 million for starting a 2,700-acre wildfire in August 2014. The suit accuses Habberstad of negligence for driving a utility vehicle across fields of “bone-dry” grass. Investigators concluded the vehicle’s exhaust system started the blaze.

The other suit was filed against Joe Thurmond Askins, his wife Martha Havlicek-Askins and his step-daughter, Ashley Martha Myers, for a fire in July 2014 fire. The trio was accused of having a campfire during campfire ban. The campfire escaped its enclosure and triggered a 200-acre blaze in Klamath County in the southern part of the state. The state is seeking $900,000 in damages.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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