Breaking News
More () »

Lawsuit filed against Avista for 'negligence' in Babb Road Fire

Plaintiffs are accusing Avista of negligence and are asking for relief, according to documents.

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — Washington residents who lost their homes in the devasting wildfire on Sept. 7, 2020, have filed a lawsuit against Avista, according to documents.

The wildfire began in Spokane County and spread to the tows of Malden and Pine City in 2020, leaving many families without shelter. 

The Babb Road Fire nearly destroyed the towns of Malden and Pine City. More than 80% of all buildings in Malden and Pine City were destroyed in the fire. In total, 223 homes, businesses, barns and other structures were destroyed by the fires. 

Only eight out of the 20 homes in Pine City were still standing after the fire swept through the town.

According to official lawsuit documents, Avista Corporation has had more than a year to walk back on earlier public statements and take responsibility for its role in this fire, and it has not done that.

The lawsuit against Avista comes from residents, property owners and businesses who lost everything in the fire and now are seeking justice for the damages.

Plaintiffs are accusing Avista of negligence and are asking for relief, documents said.

The lawsuit says after an extensive investigation the Washington State Department of Natural Sources (DNR) determined the fire was caused by contact between a Ponderosa pine tree and one or more Avista power lines after a 'defective tree' broke and came in contact with Avista power lines.

DNR investigators determined the tree had significant growth defects and also carried disease leaving it more susceptible to failure. 

Documents say the DNR also found that the defective tree had already failed and broken once a few years before the fire, and the tree should have been removed or trimmed by Avista.

According to the lawsuit, Avista should have been aware of the hazard presented by the defective tree and taken measures to remove it as it represented a hazard risk to its power lines.

The lawsuit continues to state that Avista was aware of the dry conditions throughout Spokane County and eastern Washington and was aware of the fire risks through the community after several years of extreme fires in the northwest.

Plaintiffs are suing Avista for damages including physical and mental pain suffered, damage to personal property, loss of possessions, out-of-pocket and alternative living expenses, evacuation expenses, personal injuries, loss of business income, wages and goodwill, and emotional distress.

Avista issued the following statement regarding the lawsuit:

The events on Labor Day 2020 and the losses that residents of Malden and Pine City experienced, as a result, were devastating, and Avista has been and continues to support and partner with these communities on the recovery. Since the initial restoration efforts began immediately following the fire, Avista has served as a steady supporter, facilitating connections, helping to build capacity, convening people and organizations and much more that has contributed to the community’s ability to access funding and move toward rebuilding in tangible ways. The resilience of the community and the progress achieved through perseverance and collaboration has been remarkable.

The primary cause of the fires on Labor Day 2020 in the region Avista serves was extreme high winds, a weather event that triggered wildfires and affected many throughout the Pacific Northwest.

We are aware that during the course of the storm, a lateral branch on a Ponderosa Pine tree located outside Avista’s maintenance right-of-way, broke under the extraordinary wind conditions and caused damage to the energy delivery system at or near what is believed to be the area of origin of the wildfire. To date, Avista has not found any evidence and does not believe that the fires were caused by any deficiencies in its equipment, maintenance activities or vegetation management practices.

While we have not seen and were not aware of a filed lawsuit, Avista will participate and cooperate in any legal process related to this topic.


Before You Leave, Check This Out