A historic fly-fishing ranch near Pecos, N.M., says an electric cooperative’s negligence led to a 2013 wildfire that destroyed thousands of acres of forest, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported Friday.
Cow Creek Ranch filed a complaint against the Mora-San Miguel Electric Cooperative in state District Court.
In the complaint, the ranch says the cooperative failed to remove a tree that fell on a power line. Ranch representatives said the tree was more than 150 feet tall and had been dead for several years before the blaze. Mora-San Miguel discouraged landowners from having such “danger trees” removed out of fear for its equipment.
The ranch is seeking actual and punitive damages.
Cow Creek says in court documents that the fire damage to the ranch’s property as well as related lakes, ponds and other habitats was devastating, “virtually destroying the income derived from the management and operation of the ranch.” Ranch owners said they have had to lay off employees as a result and are facing a loss of income for the next three to five years.
No one at the cooperative, which is closed Saturdays, was immediately available for comment. The co-op serves customers in Mora, San Miguel, Guadalupe and Santa Fe counties.
A manager reached at Cow Creek declined to comment.
Cow Creek is the third area ranch to file a lawsuit against the co-op. River Bend Ranch and Viveash Ranch also filed lawsuits in March.
The Tres Lagunas Fire, which started May 30, 2013, burned more than 15 square miles in the Santa Fe National Forest along the Pecos River Canyon. Fire investigators attributed the cause to the tree taking out the power line. The fire was one of two at the time that blanketed northern New Mexico in smoke for days.
The 2011 Las Conchas Fire, which was also started by a tree falling on a power line, spawned lawsuits from more than 50 property owners and insurance companies against the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative. The U.S. Forest Service charged the cooperative more than $38 million to cover firefighting costs.
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