Witnesses and plaintiffs in a lawsuit over damages caused by wildfires on Oregon’s Labor Day in 2020 are giving their accounts. On Friday, May 5, Richard Jensen will testify in the case against Pacific Power. The Oregon wildfires of 2020 destroyed his house.
Plaintiffs and witnesses in a historic lawsuit are testifying about the devastating effects of the 2020 Oregon wildfires and the potential liability of power company Pacific Power.
“[The firefighter] said, ‘stop what you’re doing and look and it’s something I’ll never forget,” said Richard Jensen, fighting back tears. “There were flames about 20 feet tall, and with the wind, they were coming very fast.”
On Friday, people like Jensen testified about their experiences in the 2020 Labor Day wildfires in Multnomah County Circuit Court.” I’ve seen specific stuff in the Marines and the j@il system,” Jensen added. As I said, “Nothing has affected me as this did.”
In a historic case scheduled to stretch until June, a group of seventeen plaintiffs has filed a lawsuit against Pacific Power, demanding $1.6 billion. According to the lawsuit, the company’s electrical lines were to blame for the fires that damaged the plaintiffs’ properties.
The video below shows how Pacific Power’s culpability for the flames in 2020 will be tested in court-
Multiple witnesses testified on Friday that they had seen fires started by electrical equipment in the Santiam Canyon and elsewhere. Nathan Steele, who drives a livestock truck, said what happened: “Wind blew a limb onto a tree, knocking out a power line and, eventually, causing a transformer to explode.”
Another plaintiff witness, Christian Bigness, said that he remembered having to coerce his neighbor Penny out of her house for safety reasons and regretted not considering what she would be leaving behind when her house burnt down.
Bigness said that Penny was the lone surviving member of her family and had lost everything. She had lost all her ancestors had worked for. She has no photos of her parents, family artifacts, or jewelry since she gave it all away.
Pacific Power’s counsel questioned its witnesses about their proximity to the current Beachie Creek fire and other wildfires, suggesting they may have had a role. Jensen said that his wife had escaped first with their two dogs, and he had subsequently located her on the side of the road. He added, “I had to pull up behind her and tell her everything was gone.”
About a month after that, the Jensens were permitted to go back and look at their property. “We were able to sift through those ashes, and everything we could find fit in a sandwich bag, everything we owned,” Jensen recalled. “As my wife said, even with a sandwich in it.”
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State officials from Oregon testified last week in court that they attempted to order power outages before the commencement of large fires. The legal team for Pacific Power claimed that kind of action was very unusual at the time and fraught with danger.
After the plaintiffs have finished calling their witnesses, Pacific Power will have the opportunity to submit its arguments, extending the trial’s timeline into June. State and federal investigations into the flames are still underway, adding another layer of complexity to the case.
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