Yakama Nation seeks millions in lawsuit over 2013 Klickitat County wildfire

The Yakama Nation is seeking $65.5 million in damages from the Klickitat Public Utility District for a 2013 wildfire that burned nearly 20,000 acres of tribal timber land.

The Yakima Herald-Republic reports the state says the utility is at fault because its power lines set the blaze.

But the PUD claims loggers were responsible for the fire.

The case is one of the largest ever, in the amount of damages sought, from wildfire on Indian forest land.

The utility is asking a federal court to dismiss the claim, which was filed on behalf of the tribe by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Natural Resources Director for the Yakama Nation, Phil Rigdon, says the tribe has suffered economic and cultural losses as a result of the wildfire.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs claims it has a trust responsibility to recover damages, which is outlined in the National Indian Forest Resource Management Act. It says the law requires the agency to seek damages from anyone who trespasses on tribal forest land and damages the resource.

The utility says the claim is invalid because there’s no proof it “trespassed” on tribal land.