(STL.News) – United States Attorney Erica MacDonald today announced that Wisconsin Central LTD and CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY COMPANY have collectively paid $1.25 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the United States for damages resulting from a 2016 wildfire in northeastern Minnesota that burned more than 973 acres in St. Louis County, 387 acres of which were national forest land.
According to the government’s allegations, on May 6, 2016, a wildfire known as the Skibo Fire ignited in St. Louis County, Minnesota, east of Hoyt Lakes, in the area of Skibo, Minnesota. The United States alleged that the fire ignited due to a railroad locomotive that experienced mechanical failure. By the time the fire was suppressed, 387 acres had been burned within the Superior National Forest, and another 585 acres belonging to St. Louis County and private landowners. The fire cost more than $1.5 million to suppress, threatened the nearby City of Hoyt Lakes and forced the evacuation of several residences in the community of Skibo, Minnesota.
The United States sought to recover damages from WISCONSIN CENTRAL LTD and CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY COMPANY for their failure to maintain the equipment that started the fire. Under the settlement announced today, WISCONSIN CENTRAL LTD and CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY COMPANY have paid $1.25 million to settle the dispute.
“This settlement goes a long way toward compensating the public for the expense of fighting the fire and the damage to public lands,” said U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively pursue recovery against those whose carelessness damages our precious national resources.”
“This is another reminder that everyone has an important role to play in fire prevention,” said USDA Forest Service Acting Eastern Region Regional Forester Robert Lueckel. “We all must remain vigilant, especially during fire season.”
This case was handled by the Affirmative Civil Enforcement unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota and was investigated by U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigation Division, the State of Minnesota Fire Marshall’s Office, the State of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the East Range Police Department.