A large fire that destroyed homes in Pierce County could’ve been prevented, lawsuit alleges

Insurance companies have sued Puget Sound Energy, alleging it could’ve prevented a fire that destroyed homes and burned hundreds of acres two summers ago in East Pierce County.

The Sumner Grade Fire started when winds knocked trees over power lines and transformers, a Puget Sound Energy customer communications manager told The News Tribune in September 2020.

The fire moved along state Route 410 between Sumner and Bonney Lake. It destroyed two homes and 484 acres in total, The News Tribune reported.

Liberty Mutual and Safeco filed the lawsuit on Sept. 7 in Pierce County Superior Court. It says the companies “provided property and casualty insurance” to nine people who were affected by the fire.

PSE owns and manages the power lines and transformers, and should have removed hazards near its electrical equipment such as trees and branches, the lawsuit argues.

When asked for comment, Puget Sound Energy wrote in an email that the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The insurance companies allege PSE didn’t conduct frequent inspections of its electrical equipment, as well as nearby trees or vegetation that could fall on its equipment and cause a fire.

PSE “failed” to ensure trees nearby were safe and far enough away from electrical equipment, and didn’t create high voltage power lines in a way that would avoid starting a fire, the lawsuit alleges.

“PSE … failed to take reasonable precautions to protect the Plaintiffs from the foreseeable risk of harm created by trees near its electrical transmission and distribution system,” the lawsuit said.

A firefighter stands in front of the Sumner Grade Fire blaze in September 2020.
A firefighter stands in front of the Sumner Grade Fire blaze in September 2020.