The sun glows through smokey skies behind high tension electricy towers in Butte County, Calif., on November 17. California’s thirst for energy delivered by overhead lines may have sparked the Camp Fire, California’s worst and deadliest conflagration. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI |

Dec. 6 (UPI) — A San Francisco law firm announced Wednesday it’s filed a class action lawsuit in California Superior Court against a state utility over the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people last month.

The plaintiffs argue in the suit the deadly blaze that started on Nov. 8 was sparked by “unsafe electrical infrastructure” in Butte County owned, operated, and maintained by Pacific Gas and Electric.

The fire burned 230 square miles of land before it was contained Nov. 25. It’s been called the deadliest wildfire in California history, with 11 people still reported missing. It damaged about 14,000 homes. Heavy rains last week helped extinguished the fire, but also brought flooding to many of the same areas.

Last month, a Cal Fire incident report listed the cause of the wildfire as under investigation, but the Chico Enterprise-Record reported downed power lines and high winds may have contributed, according to firefighter radio transmissions.

RELATED Some Paradise residents allowed to return to homes after Camp Fire
At least one resident told the newspaper there was a power outage in the area shortly before the fire was reported.

“Despite knowledge that its infrastructure was aging, unsafe, and vulnerable to weather and environmental conditions, PG&E failed to fulfill these duties, and failed to take preventative measures in the face of known, high-risk weather conditions to mitigate the risk of fire, including by de-energizing its electrical equipment,” Lexi Hazam, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said in a statement.

“PG&E’s failures here led to the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history.”

RELATED California areas burned by wildfire hit with heavy rain, floods
The plaintiffs so far include Kevin Burnett and Leslie Moore; Darwin Crabtree and Sandra Crabtree; Joseph Garfield; Robert Eldridge; and Benjamin Greenwald in connection with his business as Greenwald Pest Defense.

“After a difficult and terrifying evacuation, we found out our home had been completely destroyed by the fire,” Burnett said in a statement by law firms Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein and Edelson PC.

“The stress, the loss, are almost more than we can bear, and to then learn PG&E’s equipment likely caused the fire, we just feel broken. I just lost 35 years of my life. Everything I worked for since I moved to California went up in smoke.”

Shareholder and consumer rights law firm Schubert Jonckheer & Kolbe LLP announced Wednesday it was also investigating whether certain officers and directors of PG&E breached their fiduciary duties by repeatedly and systemically failing to adequately oversee fire risks by the company’s power lines, transmission towers, and equipment.

“Our primary focus continues to be the safety and well-being of customers and communities that have been affected,” Laurie Giammona, the energy company’s senior vice president and chief customers officer, said in a statement last week.

“We recognize the hardships you are currently facing, and we want to provide solutions and programs to help our customers through these difficult times.”

The Sacramento Bee reported the utility came under scrutiny last year after the wine country fires killed 44 people and caused at least $10 billion in damages. Cal Fire then blamed transmission lines and other PG&E equipment for 16 of the fires, but not for the deadliest — the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, which killed 24 people.

Deadly wildfires ravage California


read more