According to several news reports including MercuryNews.com, there is mounting evidence that suggests PG&E power lines or electrical equipment may have stared the Camp Fire. The devastation caused by the most destructive wildfire in California history continues to rage on, claiming human life and billions of dollars in property damage. As of November 18, 2018, the Camp Fire took the lives of over 77 people, burned more than 151,000 acres, and destroyed over ll,700 homes. Despite this enormous toll in human lives and lost property, fire officials predicted the fire was only halfway done burning. The death toll from the fire could reach much higher given an inability to account for hundreds of others who are missing. The inspection into the cause of the Camp Fire remains ongoing. However, mounting evidence suggests that the blaze and the Woolsey fire in Southern California that claimed three lives and demolished over 800 structures might have been sparked by downed power lines or faulty electrical power equipment.
Did Power Lines or Electrical Equipment Cause or Exacerbating the Camp Fire?
PG&E was hit with a multitude of lawsuits filed in the wake of the Wine Country fires last year that were allegedly ignited by the utility company’s power equipment. Cal Fire blames 17 wildfires last year on PG&E’s power infrastructure. Despite the electricity supplier facing lawsuits stemming from these fires, evidence indicates that the utility provider might have failed to learn from last year’s disastrous wildfires.
Cal Fire radio transmissions indicated that firefighters responded to a vegetation fire under high power lines across the Feather River from Poe Dam. Each fire truck who responded radioed in that power lines were downed according to Bay Area News Group reports. The caller who alerted the fire department about the blaze reported downed power lines. PG&E also acknowledged in a mandatory filing with the Public Utilities Commission that the company had detected a power outage on a Butte County transmission line 15 minutes prior to initial reports of the fire. An aerial inspection that followed revealed damage to a transmission tower on the same transmission line in the approximate location of Poe Dam. A dispatcher also reportedly alerted six fire engine crews and other personnel of a “possible power line hazard.” One minute after this report firefighters were dispatched because residential power lines had been taken down by a tree branch in the neighboring town of Magalia.
Questions Linger Regarding the Utility Company’s Failure to Follow through on an Announced Shutdown
PG&E issued 17 distinct warnings of a potential electrical power shutdown beginning 48 hours prior to the fire. One such warning was even issued an hour after the fire started based on low humidity and high winds. These warnings were issued to certain residents in Butte, Lake, Nevada, Napa, Yuba, Placer, Plumas, and Sierra counties. Despite these reported warnings, the utility company inexplicably declined to implement the safety measure. PG&E indicated that the decision to conduct a Public Safety Power Shutoff is determined by on-the-ground observations, intense winds, extremely dry vegetation, and low humidity. The company did not indicate which factors were absent but informed users that the safety measure was not justified by the weather.
PG&E Safety Measures Have Lagged Behind Southern California Utility Providers
Although the reason PG&E elected not to shut off the electrical power remains unclear, the decision reflects a glaring regulatory gap. The decision regarding whether to turn off power and the factors that impact this determination are dictated by utility companies on a case-by-case basis. Because of a void in state and federal regulations regarding this issue, the decision-making process remains an ad hoc process conducted by PG&E and similar utility providers. The lack of regulation means that no legal precedent exists to impose fines for failing to implement a safety shutdown.
If you lost or someone close to you suffered property damage, were serious injury or killed during the Camp Fire, the Woolsey Fire, or another fire started by PG&E, you might have the right to financial compensation. We invite you to contact us at 1-800 YOUR LAWYER (1-800-968-7529) or send us an email to arrange your free case evaluation.
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