In December 2017 and January 2018, California experienced one of its most devastating and destructive wildfires, even when judged against the utter desolation that the last two wildfire seasons have been for California. The Thomas fire, as it is widely known, killed two people and was the second deadliest wildfire in California history. In total, the Thomas Fire consumed 281,893 acres across parts of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. To give some context, this is larger than the size of the cities of Dallas and Miami combined. The Thomas Fire resulted in two fatalities, including the death of 32-year-old Cory Iverson, a Cal Fire engineer who perished battling the blaze.
Details are now emerging that utility Southern California Edison (SCE) appears to have played a major role in causing at least one of the two confirmed ignition points for the beginnings of what later morphed into the Thomas Fire as the blaze spread and became progressively larger. The company’s announcement that it and Cal Fire had confirmed its role in igniting this blaze, which resulted in not only historic levels of property damage but also loss of life, calls into question yet again whether California’s utilities are truly being held to account for their role in causing the wildfires that have plagued the state over the past two years. These fires have consumed tens of thousands of homes and others structures and resulted in tens of billions of dollars in losses to homeowners and business owners. Many are still left picking up the pieces of their lives in the wake of the destruction left behind by the Thomas Fire and other fires over the past two devastating California wildfire seasons. Whether this recent announcement by SCE indicates a change of tone for California utilities as it relates to wildfires caused by their actions or equipment remains to be seen.
The Thomas Fire’s cause, which previously was the source of some speculation, has now been determined to be related at least in part to the actions of electric utility SCE. According to an L.A. Times report, evidence has now come out to suggest Southern California Edison had a role in causing the initial blaze that then morphed into the second largest wildfire in Golden State history. According to a CNN.com article, the company announced this past Tuesday that witnesses saw a fire igniting near one of the company's power poles in Santa Paula (near Santa Barbara) and the utility now believes after conducting further investigation that its equipment was linked to the ignition. The incident took place at one of two different sites where Cal Fire investigators and company personnel have determined the Thomas Fire was initially ignited. The utility’s admission that it had a role in starting the Thomas Fire is a welcome change from previous actions by California utilities seeking to shirk responsibility for the consequences of admitted it had a role in causing a wildfire that destroyed people’s homes,
SCE officials also announced they were aware of at least 102 lawsuits that had been filed across Southern California against the utility related to the Thomas Fire that actually name the company as a defendant. Insurance is expected to pick up a certain amount of the damages sought in these lawsuits. Dozens if not hundreds of more lawsuits are likely to be filed. It also remains to be seen what role the company’s announcement that it acknowledged some role in having started the fire will have on these and future suits, but at least it indicates at least one California utility may be starting to acknowledge what it did to contribute to causing wildfires that have wreaked havoc across the entire state.
At JT Legal Group, our experienced wildfire insurance claims lawyers can assist you if you have suffered damage to your home or business as a result of the Thomas Fire or any other blaze during California’s historic past two wildfire seasons. Our experienced California fire damage attorneys can assist in working with your insurance company or to resolve any number of other legal problems related to damage which has occurred as a result of fire, whether it involves damage to your home, business, or any other structure or property. While you are busy putting your life back together in the aftermath of a wildfire, our experienced attorneys will go to work for you and deal with your insurer to ensure that you can focus on rebuilding your life while we handle obtaining and negotiating maximum compensation for your damages suffered in a California wildfire.
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