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Telephone company says Legion Lake Fire was caused by “act of God”

by Bill Gabbert, Wildfire Today |

A telephone company that is being sued by landowners for allegedly causing the Legion Lake Fire claims the 54,000-acre fire was caused by an “act of God.”

There is no question that a tree falling on a Black Hills Energy power line created sparks which ignited the fire Dec. 11, 2017, in Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Three families claim in the lawsuit that Mt. Rushmore Telephone Company weakened the root system of the Ponderosa pine by digging a utility trench, making it less resistant to strong winds which were present when the fire started.

The Rapid City (S.D.) Journal reported:

... In its response, attorneys for Black Hills Energy deny almost everything in the pleading documents, save that a tree fell on a company power line. BHE contests their liability and suggests the plaintiffs themselves should be viewed as equally if not more guilty for their damage in the Legion Lake Fire.

“Plaintiffs failed to mitigate their damages,” attorneys for Black Hills Energy write, “and any damages resulting from Plaintiffs’ failure to mitigate their damages may not be recovered.”

Mt. Rushmore Telephone Company’s response is even shorter, arguing the Legion Lake Fire was “the result of an act of God.”

The 10,000 acres of private land that burned in the fire is used for raising cattle and many land owners lost pastures, fences and winter hay.

More than half of the portion of Custer State Park that was available for their bison herd burned, and park officials asked for hay donations to help the animals get through the winter. More than 8,000 acres of Wind Cave National Park also burned in the Legion Lake Fire and in the earlier Rankin Fire, but park spokesman Tom Farrell said they still had plenty of forage in reserve for the 260 elk and 350 bison.