Fires

SoCal Edison workers started devastating Thomas Fire, victims’ lawsuit says

A class action lawsuit filed in December 2017 alleges Southern California Edison was responsible for the Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in modern California history.
A class action lawsuit filed in December 2017 alleges Southern California Edison was responsible for the Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in modern California history. AP

A law firm representing multiple Ventura County clients contends that Southern California Edison is responsible for the largest wildfire in modern California history, according to a complaint filed in Ventura County Superior Court in December.

The Dec. 15 filing from Robertson & Associates contends that Edison contractors and employees were working on a “big project” near a Comcast satellite facility in Santa Paula shortly before the fire, which came to be called the Thomas Fire, broke out on the evening of Dec. 4. The complaint alleges that workers’ “construction activities caused the ignition of dry vegetation at this construction site, which set off this massive fire.”

The lawsuit also names the city of Ventura and Casitas Municipal Water District as defendants, alleging that they failed to have adequate electricity to power the fire hydrants and water pumping stations necessary to contain the fire in the early stages.

“(Southern California Edison Co.) had a duty to properly construct and maintain its electrical infrastructure and ensure that surrounding trees and vegetation were trimmed and kept at a safe distance,” the complaint states. “Had SCE acted responsibly, the Thomas Fire could have been prevented.”

The complaint states that the 10 named plaintiffs, as well as “all others similarly situated,” suffered property loss, economic hardship and disruption of their lives as a result of the fire.

Heavy smoke has residents gasping for air as a huge Southern California wildfire explodes in size again, becoming the fifth largest in state history. Tens of thousands have fled their homes as wind-fanned wildfires throughout the region. December

All of the named plaintiffs, including George and Cheryl Lewis, lost their homes in the fire.

“They also bring this case as a class action, because they believe all those who suffered such damages and losses should be fairly treated and included as beneficiaries of a comprehensive and consistent adjudication or resolution of liability and damages,” the complaint states.

The plaintiffs seek compensation for the cost of repair, lost wages, attorney fees, “treble or double damages for wrongful injuries to timber, trees or underwood on their property,” “punitive and exemplary damages,” all lawsuit-related expenses, as well as “general damages for fear, worry, annoyance, disturbance, inconvenience, mental anguish, emotional distress and loss of quiet enjoyment of property.”

In Southern California Edison’s most recent statement on the Thomas Fire, the company said that “the causes of the wildfire are being investigated by Cal Fire, other fire agencies and the California Public Utilities Commission.”

The official cause for the fire, which claimed more than 281,000 acres, 1,000 structures and two lives, remains under investigation.

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7934, @andrewsheeler

Ventura County Fire Department shot this time-lapse video of a plume of smoke collapsing and creating dangerous conditions on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, during the Thomas Fire. As the massive smoke plume generated by the fire continues to rise, i

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