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Lawsuit says rancher, manufacturer caused Oregon wildfire

August 7, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A lawsuit says a rancher, workers and the John Deere farm equipment company are at fault for a wildfire that burned parts of an Oregon Native American reservation.

The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs filed the lawsuit Monday over the origins of the 2017 Nena Springs fire, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Tuesday.

The tribal group seeks up to $12.25 million in economic damages from lost timber resources on its northern Oregon reservation.

The wildfire burned for more than two weeks and consumed more than 106 square miles (275 square kilometers) and caused hundreds of evacuations.

The Oregon State Fire Marshal concluded the fire was accidental.

The lawsuit makes claims of negligence against Jamie Wisenbaker and Lester Lindell, a contractor who hired Larry Wisenbaker to harvest Jamie Wisenbaker’s wheat.

Lindell and Larry Wisenbaker failed to properly inspect the combine harvester or notice a rock that caused a spark was stuck in a chute, while the machine did not have properly adjusted mirrors, the lawsuit said.

Larry Wisenbaker operated the combine without sufficient experience or training, the lawsuit said. He acknowledged driving the combine and that it sparked the wildfire, but said the cause was accidental.

Lindell declined to comment and Jamie Wisenbaker did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

John Deere made faulty equipment and should have designed a machine capable of encountering natural debris “without causing mechanical issues, sparks, or fires,” the lawsuit said.

The Delaware-based company said it had not received a copy of the lawsuit and was unable to comment on pending litigation.

The tribal group did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com

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