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Power company pays out $300M in damages to customers following wildfires: ‘Today’s settlement is the result of one thing’

In the case of the Oregon wildfires in 2020, the combination of a few factors resulted in one of the state’s worst natural disasters.

In the case of the Oregon wildfires in 2020, the combination of a few factors resulted in one of the state's worst natural disasters.

Photo Credit: iStock

Electricity company PacifiCorp is set to pay damages of nearly $300 million to Oregon residents affected by wildfires on Labor Day in 2020.

According to the Associated Press, 463 individual plaintiffs in the Archie Creek area were involved in the lawsuit.

Several lawsuits have been filed against the company after residents said it ignored warnings from state leaders and fire officials to turn off power for its customers during a windstorm.

The company’s power lines were then responsible for multiple fires. The total devastation across southern Oregon in the Labor Day fires saw nine people die, nearly 2,000 square miles of land burned, and over 5,000 homes and other structures destroyed.

“I want to congratulate the new CEO and the General Counsel of PacifiCorp for stepping up and doing the right thing by their ratepayers who lost their homes during the Labor Day 2020 fires,” the plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel Mikal Watts said. “Today’s settlement is the result of one thing — good lawyers and good corporate leadership.”

PacifiCorp has also paid $70 million in damages to 17 homeowners following a June verdict, as well as $250 million to 10 timber companies more recently. The AP says more trials will be conducted in 2024 to compensate other impacted residents. A group featuring the owners of around 2,500 properties may receive compensation for additional damages.

With temperatures rising in the summer months as a result of human-caused global heating, the risk of wildfires is increasing. Warmer conditions and a lack of rainfall lead to plant life and trees being deprived of water and drying out, and they can act like kindling if exposed to a spark.

Meanwhile, wind storms can also be exacerbated by warmer temperatures. In the case of the Oregon wildfires in 2020, the combination of these factors resulted in one of the state’s worst natural disasters. 

While the disturbance of power lines in the blustery conditions would have likely caused sparks, the wind would have also encouraged the fires to spread more rapidly. 

Although PacifiCorp holds a responsibility in this case after not following state rules in the event of extreme weather, we can all help reduce the risk of wildfires.

Utilizing public transport instead of driving on short journeys will help reduce dirty-fuel pollution from cars that traps heat in the atmosphere, while installing solar panels can cut reliance on electricity companies that use coal to produce power. 

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