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Could a California Utility Company Be Responsible for the Thomas Fire?

Firemen at work on fire

Only a few short weeks ago, we reported on how PG&E may have been responsible for the wildfires that raged across wine country. Now, a new lawsuit is claiming that another major energy provider may also be responsible for one of those blazes—the record-breaking Thomas fire. But the damages claimed in this latest lawsuit may reach beyond what the fire destroyed.

Another California Utility Company May Have Sparked the Thomas Fire

On December 4, 2017, the Thomas fire began. Before it was doused several weeks later, the fire claimed 281,893 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties—a state record that no one wanted to see. These fires destroyed over 1,000 buildings costing an estimated $297 million in damage; however, those costs may soon rise.

Civil complaints have been filed against the Southern California Edison Company (SCE) and Montecito Water District Financing Corporation. In this lawsuit, plaintiffs allege that the Thomas fire was started when SCE-owned transformers either caught fire or exploded. The lawsuit further claims that the power company’s failure to trim and remove vegetation that had grown up around its transformers also contributed to the disaster. But the accusations don’t end there.

Allegedly, the loss of vegetation caused by the Thomas fire may have made the ground in the area susceptible to water and erosion. On January 9th, a massive mudslide destroyed homes and killed 20 people. This lawsuit claims that not only is SCE partially responsible for these mudslides, but that Montecito Water District Financing Corporation is also responsible due to a pipe that burst during the rainstorm that caused devastation.

Could these fires have caused even more damage than we previously thought? Could other wine country fires cause mudslides? Who should be held responsible for the damages caused by these wildfires? The Bay Area attorneys at Mary Alexander & Associates will continue to monitor these developments to find out.

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