Three property owners west of Bend are suing their neighbor for a total of $2.4 million. They allege he is responsible for the March 2021 Bull Springs Fire that fire investigators say burned 211 acres and threatened more than 180 homes.
The three complaints, filed separately in Deschutes County District Court, allege negligence by James Verheyden. Also named as defendants are Jean Verheyden and two companies James Verheyden owns — Millwood, which specializes in juniper tree logging, and Verheyden Works, a mobile mix concrete company.
The complaints state a fire started on the Verheyden property on March 28, 2021, in the area where the defendants had been previously burning. March 28 was allegedly in the middle of a National Weather Service wind advisory for the area.
The complaints state that the Oregon Department of Forestry “created a report indicating the Fire was caused by the landowner, that the Fire was caused by debris burning, that the landowner failed to follow burn permit instructions and that the Fire was caused by the rekindling of a burn pile from a previous burn.”
The complaints also allege that on March 28, Verheyden stated to a deputy fire marshal that “He had contractors who had been on site over the past few weeks burning numerous slash piles and one or more of the piles had rekindled due to the wind conditions.”
According to the ODF Fire Incident Report, total cost to suppress the fire was $88,731. Total estimated damage cost was $37,709. A total of 182 homes and 200 structures total were threatened.
Central Oregon Daily News attempted to reach out Friday to the attorney believed to be representing Verheyden in the complaints. We were told he was out of the office. We’ve also attempted to reach Verheyden for comment.
Peter and Jacqueline McCook are seeking $900,000 in damages. They allege 61 acres and two outbuildings were damaged on their property.
Christian and Patti Calande are seeking $900,000 in damages. They allege 46 acres burned on their property.
Eric and Kathleen Carr are seeking $600,000 in damages. They allege eight acres, fencing and timber were damaged on their property.
All three property owners are being represented by Brent Smith at Baum Smith LLC.