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Lawsuit implicates Parker Ranch for large Waimea fire


Hawaiʻi Island ranchers are suing Parker Ranch for one of the largest fires in the state last year.

The large fire that spread quickly across Waimea was estimated to had burned about 50,000 acres. Officials claimed it to be the largest wildfire in the state's history, and now island ranchers are taking legal action to seek closure for what was lost.

The group of ranchers are suing the Parker Ranch for not containing saw sparks that allegedly spread across a patch of dry land in Waimea that windy day — destroying land, farming equipment and a home.

The lawsuit says this work was done without safety precautions in place.

"The act of cutting metal outdoors using a saw, especially in an arid, fire-prone grassland area with winds blowing, was and is an inherently dangerous activity," said the court document.

Jason Mattos was one of the cattle ranchers affected by the fire. He is suing, along with 13 other ranchers who feel similarly.

Before July 2021, Mattos would split his herd between pastures. Following a West Hawaiʻi fire, he’s now faced with tough decisions.

"But now that I cannot bring them back to over there, my other pastures is going down," Mattos said Thursday. He said he's now spending more money to buy minerals for the cattle to keep them healthy.

"And if we continue, we're gonna have to look for other land, pay leases, or sell. And I don't want to sell. I built up these herds for how many years to get where I stay now with me and my family and my grandkids. And I don't want to destroy all that."

"Parker Ranch does not comment on threatened or pending litigation," they posted on their Facebook page Friday.

Parker Ranch did not respond to a request for comment from HPR.

Sabrina Bodon was Hawaiʻi Public Radio's government reporter.
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