Two new lawsuits claim that PG&E’s failure to maintain its equipment–yet again–contributed to a massive wildfire.
A group of 200 California residents have filed two separate lawsuits against Pacific Gas & Electric, claiming the company’s faulty equipment caused or contributed to the Dixie Fire.
According to The Sacramento Bee, the lawsuits were filed by people who lost property or loved ones in the fires. Supported by the Singleton Schreiber McKenzie Scott law firm, the plaintiffs allege that PG&E is responsible for their damages.
CBS Local-San Francisco notes that the lawsuits were both filed on Tuesday, one day after a federal judge grilled PG&E troubleshooters as to whether the company could have quickly cut off electricity to the power line suspected of starting the fire.
While Cal Fire is continuing to investigate the Dixie Fire—which was the second-largest fire in the state’s history—PG&E reports show that an employee had spotted “a healthy green tree” leaning against an electrical conductor one day before the outbreak.
The same employee, says the Bee, saw a small fire burning at the base of the tree.
“It’s clear that PG&E started this fire. The best thing they can do is to acknowledge that fact and make the survivors whole,” attorney Gerald Singleton said in a prepared statement. “We’re committed to helping our clients get the resources they need to rebuild their homes and their lives, and we look forward to advancing these cases and serving as their advocate in court.”
The lawsuits accuse the utility of failing to appreciate the threat posed by dry vegetation.
“PG&E negligently, recklessly, and wantonly failed to maintain and operate the electrical equipment in its utility infrastructure,” the lawsuits say.
However, the Dixie Fire did not extinguish itself then and there—it spread from its source in the Feather River Canyon to engulf much of Plumas County, burning about 960,000 acres of town and woodland. Over 1,000 buildings have been destroyed by the blaze.
The plaintiffs are seeking damages for property repair, depreciation, replacement cost, loss of use, lost wages, medical expenses, and more. They have also requested that the court levy punitive damages against PG&E, and force the utility to pay their attorneys’ fees.
PG&E says it is unable to respond to the litigation, since Cal Fire has yet to determine whether the utility was responsible.
“PG&E’s most important responsibility is the safety of our customers and the communities we serve,” the company said in a statement. “We continue to support the firefighters and first responders working to contain the Dixie Fire. CAL FIRE has not made a determination on the cause of the fire, and we have not been able to review the evidence CAL FIRE collected.”
“We remain focused on reducing wildfire risk across our service area.”