OKANOGAN, Wash. – A lawsuit against the Department of Natural Resources was filed Thursday on behalf of hundreds of families suing for damages three years after the Carlton Complex wildfire.

Four separate fires started by lightning strikes burned for days before growing into a firestorm that burned through Pateros, Wash., and destroyed hundreds of homes. Plaintiffs claim DNR was negligent by failing to put out the fires when the fires were still small in size.

The suit states that each of the four lightning strikes happened on DNR land, either owned by the state or under its control and fire jurisdiction. Nearby homeowners said they promptly notified DNR about the existence and location of the fires. Documents said the state agency had a duty to contain the fires and prevent them from escaping and causing damage to others. Instead, the department breached its duties by failing to keep the fires from spreading according to the lawsuit.

The suit also said the department actively prevented others, including firefighters, volunteers, and property owners, from battling the fires themselves. The state now has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit.