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State Dept. of Natural Resources sues construction company for Taylor Bridge fire
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has filed a lawsuit to recover the costs of fighting the Taylor Bridge fire that started Aug. 13, 2012. The lawsuit is against Conway Construction Company and Rainier Steel, Inc. Conway Construction Company was working under contract with the Washington State Department of Transportation, and Rainier Steel, Inc. was a subcontractor.
“Negligence put the public in danger of this fast moving wildfire,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “DNR will make every effort to hold all responsible parties to full account for the Taylor Bridge fire’s cost.”
DNR’s fire investigation concluded that the fire was human-caused and associated with the cutting and welding activity taking place on and below the deck of Bristol Bridge (also known as the Taylor Bridge) at the intersection of State Highway 10 and Taylor Road, southeast of Cle Elum. The activity was ongoing during a period of extreme fire danger, and without reasonable precautions such as clearing away flammable material, any effort to control welding and cutting sparks, or having the proper fire equipment and trained personnel on-site.
The lawsuit was filed in Kittitas County, the location of the Taylor Bridge fire. DNR is seeking to recover in excess of $5 million for the fire cost recovery claim.
DNR is responsible (RCW 76.04.495) for seeking recovery for its costs associated with the suppression of wildfires. The Taylor Bridge fire burned more than 23,000 acres, destroying 61 homes and hundreds of outbuildings and other property. The total suppression cost of the Taylor Bridge fire is estimated to be $11.1 million, with DNR’s cost estimated to be approximately half that. Suppression costs do not include damage or loss of private property or impact to public land or infrastructure. The suit also includes a claim for state lands damaged by the wildfire.
DNR’s wildfire mission
Administered by the commissioner of public lands, DNR is responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 13 million acres of private, state and tribal-owned forestlands. DNR is the state’s largest on-call fire department, with more than 1,000 employees trained and available to be dispatched to fires as needed. During fire season, this includes more than 700 DNR employees who have other permanent jobs with the agency and about 400 seasonal employees hired for firefighting duties. Additionally, adult offenders from the Department of Corrections and juvenile offenders from the Department of Social and Health Services-Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration support firefighting efforts through DNR’s Correctional Camps Program. DNR also participates in Washington's coordinated interagency approach to firefighting.