The U.S. Attorney’s Office says a power company and an ice company are responsible for starting a wildfire, and they need to pay up.
The government seeks damages of $17.6 million from Idaho County Light and Power Cooperative Association and Gary and Carolyn Hegvet, who own The Ice Man, a commercial ice plant, according to the complaint filed Sept. 19 in federal court in Moscow.
The Sheep Fire started on Sept. 6, 2012, in Idaho County north of Riggins on land owned by the Hegvets, at the base of a power pole owned by Idaho County Light and Power. A jumper cable at the top of the pole failed, sparked and discharged a piece of molten wire into combustible material at the base of the power pole.
The fire burned for nearly one month, torching 49,600 acres. Most of the land burned is federally owned.
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The fire cost the federal government $17.7 million, including $15.8 million fighting the fire and nearly $2 million in rehabilitation costs.
Prosecutors claim Idaho County Power and Light improperly installed the jumper cable and installed undersized equipment, which caused the fire.
And they say the Hegvets are at fault because the couple failed to inform Idaho County Power and Light of increases in their electrical load at the ice plant, aggravating the problem with the undersized equipment. The Hegvetts also didn’t install electricity-regulating equipment, and didn’t remove combustible material near the power pole, the complaint states.
Attorneys say some sort of fire also occurred at that same electrical service drop to the ice plant in 2008.
Idaho County Light and Power and the Hegvets did not return the Statesman’s phone calls asking for comment.