Families sue after losing loved ones to Santiam Canyon fires

SALEM, Ore. (KATU/CNN) – Two families are filing wrongful death lawsuits in Oregon after losing loved ones to a wildfire there a year ago. They said utilities failed to prevent the fire and authorities didn’t warn residents to evacuate in time.

KATU’s Megan Allison talked to one man who lost his mother and brother.

The Cook family is seeking more than $40 million, stating agencies across the region could have prevented this loss of life.

The lawsuit states both consumers and Pacific Power did not completely de-energize their utility lines in areas of high winds.

Looking to law enforcement, attorneys said the sheriff’s office posted a warning of Level 3 evacuations on Facebook at a time when the cook family did not have power or a way to receive this warning.

KATU spoke to Travis Cook after his family was identified at this time last year.

“She was packed and ready to go,” Cook said. “That’s the crazy thing. It wasn’t like she was trying to get things going together and stuff, she was actually already packed and ready to go. She was really just waiting because it was getting 7:00, 8:00 at night, she didn’t want to have to drive to bend if she really didn’t need to.”

The lawsuit says for more than five hours, the sheriff’s office had direct knowledge of life-threatening conditions throughout the Santiam Canyon that should have triggered an earlier evacuation.

It also claims METCOM did not begin sending out emergency notifications of the Level 3 evacuation until three hours after the sheriff’s office order.

None of the named agencies are commenting on the lawsuits.

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