The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

KPUD says 'No way'


The Klickitat PUD (KPUD), recently charged more than $2 million by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office for negligently starting last year’s Mile Marker 28 Fire, suggests it has strong grounds to deny the claim.

KPUD Chief Operating Officer Ron Ihrig doesn’t spell out the details, but his comments clearly suggest there is a lot of information not contained in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) report on the fire.

“We’re going to send a letter to deny the claim and ask for additional information,” Ihrig says. “We felt there were several people who they didn’t get statements from.”

According to Ihrig, the DNR report highlighted very limited statements from a narrow range of people.

“There were quite a few statements from the people from the logging operation,” he says, referring to Tee Pee Logging based in Glenwood. “I don’t see any facts from other people who were on the site. Log truck drivers, anyone else who showed up during the process.”

The DNR report claimed the KPUD failed to trim back tree limbs as required and that one such limb hit a power line, igniting the fire. According to reports from some people on site and not from the logging company—none of whom were quoted in the DNR report or have spoken on the record to media yet—matters unfolded quite differently.

“Something had to have moved to get a line into a tree to start the fire,” Ihrig says. “They said the tree got into the line. The line got into the tree.”

Some unconfirmed reports suggest a tree was felled that hit the tree that then struck the power line. In efforts to remove the tree from the line, these reports suggest, the line was dragged down.

“We’re going to send a letter in the next couple of weeks, before the payment deadline,” Ihrig states. “It will say first we deny the claim, and second we need additional information. We need to see all the notes, any other statements. We talked with a lot of various people at the time of the fire, and we didn’t see any of those notes or statements included. They are then required to respond to that.”

Ihrig says the matter could take more than two years to resolve. “We’re in the old Highway 8 fire case now,” he says, “and that’s been at least two years. We’re in a dispute now with the DNR through the Attorney General’s office about that fire, where a tree 30 feet out of the right-of-way hit our power line—and they’re stating we’re negligent.”

The Sentinel has obtained the complete DNR report and is investigating its accounts.


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