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Ranchers sue after blaze spreads

A ranch company is suing the federal government for property damage allegedly caused by a fire that started in Oregon's Ochoco National Forest.

The White Butte Ranch of Wheeler County, Ore., is seeking about $600,000 in compensation for reduced timber value, dead cattle, fire-fighting costs, reforestation expenses and other losses.

According to the complaint, in 2008 the U.S. Forest Service started a fire in the Bridge Creek Wilderness Area as a land-management tool, but then allowed it to burn out of control.

The blaze spread beyond the wilderness area, causing damage to neighboring land that amounts to a government "take" of private property, the complaint said.

An attorney representing the ranch said its owners hope to reach a settlement with the federal government. A spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

-- Mateusz Perkowski

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