Moonlight Fire

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Moonlight Fire on first day: Monday, Sept. 3. As viewed from Highway 36.
Ground to crown flame spread. USFS photo

The Moonlight Fire started on Labor Day, September 3, 2007, near Westwood in Lassen County, California, United States. It was a human-caused wildfire started on private land southeast of Mountain Meadows Reservoir and is still under court review [4]. Approximately 2,300 firefighters were involved in fighting the fire [2]. Strong winds pushed smoke to the Sacramento Valley, Bay Area, Nevada and Idaho. In Plumas County, 500 homes were threatened by the Moonlight Fire; 100 residences were evacuated near Greenville in the North Arm area of Indian Valley, as the wild fire was still raging in the Plumas National Forest [2]. The fire was fully contained on September 19, 2007, having burned a total of 65,000 acres (260 km2) [2].

The cause of the fire was never clearly established [5]. Federal and state officials accused Sierra Pacific Industries of negligence in the hiring and supervision of a logging contractor. State Court Judge Leslie C. Nichols concluded that the state could not prove its case and engaged in unethical conduct in its investigation and subsequent legal action [6]. The Court ordered the State of California to pay some $32 million to the defendants to reimburse them for the money spent fighting the case. The state has appealed the ruling.

After a Federal judge ruled that Sierra Pacific could be found liable for the fire even if its contractor did not start it, Sierra Pacific settled the federal case for $55 million and 22,500 acres of land. On October 9, 2014 Sierra Pacific and other defendants filed a motion in Federal Court to terminate the settlement on the grounds that the investigation and prosecution were flawed and corrupt. As a result, on October 14, 2014 Chief Judge of the Eastern District of California Morrison C. England issued an order which referred the case to Alex Kozinski, then-Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for the assignment of a judge outside of the Eastern District of California to assure impartiality. Judge Kozinski declined to appoint a judge outside of the Eastern District to hear the case, which was then reassigned to Senior District Judge William B. Shubb, who issued an order denying the motion[1] on April 17, 2015.

The court ruled: "Defendants have failed to identity even a single instance of fraud on the court, certainly none on the part of any attorney for the government. They repeatedly argue that fraud on the court can be found by considering the totality of the allegations. Here, the whole can be no greater than the sum of its parts. Stripped of all its bluster, defendants’ motion is wholly devoid of any substance." Id., p. 63.


1.↑ 1.0 1.1, Plumas fire at 28,460 acres (115 km2); 500 homes threatened 2.↑ Metcalf, Victoria (2007-09-19). "Moonlight Fire 100 percent contained; costs top $28.5 million". Plumas County News. 3.↑ "Moonlight Fire lawsuit against Sierra Pacific Industries, others dismissed". Lassen County Times. 2013-08-02. 4. Sacramento Bee (10/9/2014), "Sierra Pacific Levels Corruption Charges in Renewed Legal Fight over Moonlight Fire." 5. Sacramento Bee (2/25/2014, "Judge Orders Cal Fire to Pay $30 Million for 'Reprehensible Conduct' in Moonlight Fire Case."

6. Law360 (2/6/2014), "Judge Sanctions Cal Fire $32 Million for Conduct in Wildfire Suit."


Coordinates: 40°13′40″N 120°50′50″W / 40.22791°N 120.84710°W / 40.22791; -120.84710