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Victims of California Wildfire Sue Utility Company

Three law firms, calling themselves Northern California Fire Lawyers, filed suit against Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), claiming the deadly Camp Fire in Butte County is the "direct and legal result of the negligence, carelessness, recklessness, and/or unlawfulness" of the company. The Camp Fire has all but destroyed the town of Paradise in Butte County. Specifically, the lawsuit claims PG&E failed to properly maintain, repair, and replace its equipment and that this "inexcusable behavior" contributed to the cause of the fire. The lawsuit seeks monetary compensation and unspecified damages.

Things Already Look Bad for PG&E

There are a host of damning facts that point the finger at PG&E. Specifically, in the days leading up to the fire, PG&E told Paradise customers it may have to shut their power down due to temporarily dangerous conditions, as the company had done recently to 60,000 other customers in nearby service areas. According to Reuters, just one day before the fire started, PG&E informed a landowner near the initial burn point of the blaze that crews would be coming on to her property due to sparking utility wires. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey has yet to specify the cause of the deadly blaze, but is aware that fire teams are looking to preserve evidence for an investigation.

Devastation, by the Numbers

To date, the Camp Fire has killed 48 people, though over 100 are still missing, most of them senior citizens. Over 7,600 homes have been destroyed and 135,000 acres torched. The Butte County sheriff's office has stated this is California's most deadly and destructive wildfire in history. The fire is only about 35% contained.

PG&E No Stranger to Blazing Inferno Lawsuits

PG&E claims that it is focusing on rescue efforts and to date has no comment on its liability. It does not, however, dispute any of the facts in the Reuters article. PG&E is no stranger to negligence lawsuits. This is not the first lawsuit against PG&E over negligent maintenance of their lines. The PG&E gas line explosions of 2010 in San Bruno, California killed eight people and destroyed dozens of homes. In that disaster, PG&E accepted liability due to a faulty gas pipe, flawed operations and inadequate government oversight.

In September 2013, PG&E settled damages with the 501 victims, which amounted to $565 million. In nearby Santa Rosa, California, various plaintiffs are suing PG&E, including the city of Santa Rosa and the County of Sonoma, for failing to properly maintain the areas around some of its power lines and sparking utility wires, leading to the deadly Tubbs and Nun fires that the state insurance commissioner estimates caused over $1 billion in damage last October.

If you or someone you love has been affected by the Camp Fire in Paradise, call a local consumer protection attorney today. A legal veteran can inform you of your legal rights, and help you determine next best steps.

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