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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Carlton wildfires lawsuit planned

More than 150 claimants preparing to sue state

Associated Press

BREWSTER, Wash. – More than 150 property owners are preparing to sue the state of Washington over wildfire damage claims that have been denied by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Brewster attorney Alex Thomason told the Capital Press that he is preparing a lawsuit to be filed in the spring. The suit will seek millions of dollars in damages.

He said that because the Department of Natural Resources is considered a landowner and the department negligently allowed the massive Carlton Complex fires to spread to private property, the state is liable.

So far, more than 150 people have filed claims against the state. Under state law, people have three years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit, he said.

The first $15 million worth of claims from 65 property owners were filed Oct. 17. Thomason said about 10 of those claims are agriculture-related, such as the loss of fencing and crops, but most were for the loss of homes.

DNR has denied those claims, saying in letters that it is not liable since it acted to suppress and prevent the fires. Agency spokesman Bob Redling said he could not comment further because the lawsuit is pending.

Thomason said he’s interviewed 350 people who say DNR refused to fight the fire on DNR land and then watched nearby homes explode in flames.

The cost of containment of the Carlton Complex, which burned on 256,108 acres, has been estimated at more than $100 million.

Ranchers and orchardists face years of recovery. The fire caused one death and millions of dollars in losses of 300 homes, 900 to 1,000 cattle, 500 miles of fencing and millions of board feet of timber.

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