TACOMA, Wash. -- Washington state regularly bills people who are deemed to have negligently started wildfires, but the state often doesn't get paid.
The News Tribune reports that the state Department of Natural Resources spent about $45 million fighting 44 of the most recent fires caused by negligence but has only recovered about $10 million -- about 22 percent of the amount it originally sought.
Sometimes people can't afford to pay. Other times, parties dispute their role in the fires, and argue that anything could have been done to prevent them.
State law entitles the agency to recover firefighting costs from fires caused by negligence. In a 2010 fire involving Klickitat Public Utility District, DNR held the utility liable for $27 million after a tree fell on one of its power lines. That case is in litigation.
Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark says it's important to keep pursuing the money, partly to hold people accountable.