L.A. says it lost more than $100 million to last year’s Woolsey Fire, likely sparked by a SoCal Edison utility wire.
Los Angeles County is suing utility provider Southern California Edison and its parent company, Edison International, in a bid to recover more than $100 million lost in last year’s wildfires.
According to the Associated Press, Los Angeles believes that a spark from Edison’s wires may have started the fires. Blown by stiff winds, the blaze spread over 150 square miles. It destroyed an estimated 1,600 buildings and another 360 structures, killing at least three people who were unable to escape.
Many residences remain at risk of mudslides and general dilapidation.
“This legal action is an important and essential step toward accountability and recovery,” said L.A. county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “Although I know it won’t bring people’s homes or businesses back, and won’t heal the trauma or grief my constituents are experiencing, or restore our charred hillsides, it’s very important to require entities to be held responsible.”
SoCal Edison, notes CBS News, admitted in a February filing that it may have been at fault. Just prior to the November blaze’s beginning, Edison had found that a ‘pole support wire was found near an energized electrical wire.’ The two apparently collided or otherwise made contact, sending sparks down toward the dry ground.
Shortly after that discovery, an outage was reported—and so was the fire. Started in Ventura County and fanned by strong winds, it made headway into the western reaches of Los Angeles County. It pushed farther, stopping only at Malibu and the ocean’s edge.
The Associated Press says that Malibu intends to sue SoCal Edison, too.
Los Angeles, for its part, wants to recover funds it spent fighting the fire. Its costs included fire suppression, emergency services, rescue teams, collapsed infrastructure and the razing of natural resources.
Thousands of county employees, adds the AP, were brought in to contain the blaze.
However, media accounts do suggest that SoCal Edison didn’t effect a cover-up or try to hide its complicity. In its February filing, the company told California fire investigators that its wire contact coincided with an outage and later reports of a fire.
“SCE believes that its equipment could be found to have been associated with the ignition of the Woolsey Fire,” notes the filing.
However, CBS says that California and its fire investigators haven’t actually determined culpability yet. But it wouldn’t be the first time Southern California Edison has been blamed for a wildfire. In March, CAL Fire determined that a fallen powerline owned by the company sparked another inferno, known as the Thomas Fire. That blaze burned down at least 750 homes and scorched around 281,000 acres.
Farther up the coast, Pacific Gas & Electric filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in anticipation of being held liable for several wildfires between 2017 and 2018. The company was being sued by multiple parties and could’ve been reamed for over $30 billion.