Litigation continues against Ryan Jensen, the Bellevue resident who was responsible starting a month-long wildfire that burned nearly 65,000 acres in 2018.
The Idaho Department of Lands filed a civil lawsuit on July 28, claiming nearly half a million dollars in fire suppression and abatement costs, as well as economic damages, restoration costs and loss of revenue from grazing lands.
In addition to burning properties owned by private entities, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, the wildfire also burned roughly 10,000 acres of endowment land, according to the Idaho Department of Lands complaint.
Those endowed lands generate revenue for Idaho public schools through timber sales and leasing the lands for grazing, farming, conservation leading, communications sites, recreation, residential and commercial real estate, minerals and more, according to the department’s website.
The department is claiming $336,467 for fire suppression and abatement costs, $153,764 in economic damage and restoration costs and $5,000 in attorney’s fees. According to the complaint, the department lost roughly $18,034 in potential grazing revenue in 2019 and 2020.
Jensen, 37, sparked the fire by shooting an exploding target east of Bellevue. He was sentenced on June 15 this year, ordered to serve five days in jail, complete 400 hours of community service and pay restitution totaling $303,300 to parties directly impacted by the fire’s destruction. His homeowner’s insurance will cover $300,000 of it, and he’ll pay $3,300 out-of-pocket.
The total cost of extinguishing the Sharps Fire was over $9 million, according to Blaine County prosecuting attorney Angela Nelson.
While the Idaho Department of Lands was included in that restitution pay out, receiving roughly $23,000, that figure only covers the amount of lost revenue for grazing, and not the amount the department spent on fighting the fire on its lands.
No court date has been set at this time for the lawsuit claim.
The Sharps Fire was the largest in the county since the Beaver Creek Fire burned about 115,000 acres in 2013. That blaze was ultimately extinguished in late August of that year, deep in the Pioneer Mountains, and required assistance from Great Basin Incident Management Team 1, as well as the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service and local fire agencies.