A group of homeowners in Northern California and southern Oregon have filed a lawsuit alleging that the Slater Fire was the result of PacifiCorp failing to maintain its transmission and distribution lines and to de-energize its system as conditions worsened.

The Slater Fire, which began on Sept. 8, burned 157,000 acres, destroyed 700 structures and killed one person.

The lawsuit was filed to the Superior Court of California in Sacramento on behalf of about 50 plaintiffs who are accusing the utility of causing wrongful death, injuries and damages including trespass, nuisance and negligence.

This is the fourth legal action to allege that PacifiCorp's power lines were responsible for sparking several wildfires in early September.

The Labor Day fires in Oregon destroyed an estimated 4,200 homes, with nearly 500 homes in the Santiam Canyon in Lane County lost. The cause of the fires is still under investigation, but three previous lawsuits allege that PacifiCorp's failure to de-energize its distribution lines—despite weather forecasts calling for extremely dry and windy conditions—was the cause of the Santiam Canyon fires. One of the suits says the fires burned "nearly a million acres and destroyed thousands of structures" and killed several people in the Santiam, Clackamas, McKenzie and Umpqua canyons.

Almost 1.1 million acres burned during the 2020 wildfire season, the most ever in Oregon. At one point, more than 10 percent of the state's population was under an evacuation warning or order. The cost to fight the fires topped $600 million, according to published reports.

Editor - Clearing Up

Steve began covering energy policy and resource development in the Pacific Northwest in 1999. He’s been editor of Clearing Up since 2003, and has been a fellow at the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources and University of Texas.