Press Release

Lawsuit Filed Against BNSF Railway for Role in Sparking Tunnel 5 Fire

Plaintiffs, including a local winery, whose properties were destroyed, take legal action against railway at fault for devastating fire

SKAMANIA COUNTY, WASHINTON – Yesterday, Singleton Schreiber filed a lawsuit on behalf of numerous Skamania County residents and businesses, including the Aniche Cellars Winery, who continue to suffer from the fire’s disastrous impact. The lawsuit alleges that BNSF Railway caused and contributed to the ignition, leading to damages and ongoing harms related to the devastating fire.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources determined that the Tunnel 5 Fire started when superheated particles emitted from BNSF Railway’s train ignited dry brush and other vegetation in three locations in Skamania County near railroad milepost 70, north of Highway 14 in Skamania County. The fire quickly spread, displacing about 1,000 residents, including Plaintiffs, destroying 10 homes, and burning over 500 acres. At least 40 fire engines, 256 firefighters and other personnel, five helicopters, six bulldozers and 16 water tenders were needed to fight the fire.

This region is central for high-quality Washington wine, and the fires both directly threatened the crop and may have had more long-term effects. When vineyards and grapes are exposed to smoke, this can result in wines with undesirable sensory characters, such as smoky, burnt, ashy or medicinal, usually described as 'smoke tainted'. The Aniche Cellars Winery sustained substantial harm to their property and long-term effects on their grape harvest.

"Skamania County residents have suffered unimaginable losses due to the misconduct of BNSF Railway," said Gerald Singleton, Managing Partner of Singleton Schreiber. "We are committed to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable, and that measures are put in place to prevent such tragedies in the future. This lawsuit is not only about seeking compensation for the damages incurred, but also about pushing for systemic changes to safeguard our communities and vital industries from such devastating events."

The lawsuit seeks economic and non-economic damages for the extensive destruction caused by the fire. 

Singleton Schreiber is a client-centered law firm, specializing in mass torts/multi-district litigation, fire litigation, personal injury/wrongful death, civil rights, and environmental law. Over the last decade, the firm has recovered more than $2.5 billion for clients who have been harmed and sought justice.

The firm also has the largest fire litigation practice in the country, having represented over 20,000 victims of wildfire, most notably serving plaintiffs in litigation related to the Gray wildfire in Spokane County, the 2023 Maui wildfires, the Labor Day 2020 Oregon wildfires, several California wildfires, and others. 

Contact Candice Appiah with any further questions on the lawsuit –

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