Author Topic: US sues SoCal Edison for $100 million in damages from 2020 wildfire  (Read 2454 times)

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Offline Wrightwood

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https://www.courthousenews.com/us-sues-socal-edison-for-100-million-in-damages-from-2020-wildfire/

The BobCat fire in the Angeles National Forest above Los Angeles was one of the largest fires in the history of LA County.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — The federal government sued Southern California Edison for more than $100 million in damages it sustained from the 2020 Bobcat Fire that destroyed over 100,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest.

"SCE failed to properly maintain its power lines in or around the area where the Bobcat Fire ignited," the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles said in its complaint Friday.

The company and its tree-maintenance contractor knew or should have known about the potential danger posed by the tree that contacted the utility's power lines, and ignited the fire in September 2020 but took no action to prevent this from happening, according to the complaint.

Forest Service investigators determined the Bobcat Fire, one of the largest fires in Los Angeles County, started when a tree came in contact with power lines owned and operated by SoCal Edison, according to the lawsuit. The contact ignited vegetation on a branch, which fell to the ground and spread the flames.

The resulting wildland fire burned, damaged and destroyed about 114,577 acres, including over 99,000 acres within the Angeles National Forest.

Residents of Antelope Valley in northern LA County had to flee their homes as the fire spread, driven by strong winds. Ultimately, the Bobcat Fire destroyed 171 structures, damaged 47 structures, and destroyed 178 vehicles.

"Our thoughts remain with the people who were affected by the Bobcat Fire, who lost homes, vehicles and were evacuated," said Reggie Kumar, a spokesman for SoCal Edison. "We are reviewing the Department of Justice’s legal action and it would not be appropriate to discuss outside of the court process."

In the three years since the fire, the public has had to keep off more than 100 miles of popular system trails, and numerous campgrounds, within the burn area, the government said. The fire's effects also continue to harm habitats and wildlife, including the federally endangered wildlife-mountain yellow- legged frog and other threatened fish and birds, according to the complaint.

The Forest Service spent more than $56 million suppressing the fire that took two months to fully contain. The agency also incurred property and natural resource damages of over $65 million, according to the complaint, and spent $769,000 on burned area emergency response costs.

Just two months ago, the Justice Department announced that SoCal Edison, along with a telecommunications company and a vegetation management business, had paid $22 million to the Forest Service to settle a lawsuit, filed over damages from a 2016 wildfire that burned 32,000 acres in central California.

And in June, the U.S. brought a federal complaint against the energy company, seeking more than $40 million in damages from the 2017 Creek Fire that had ravaged the Angeles National Forest.

In the new lawsuit the Justice Department claims negligence, violations of the California Health and Safety Code, violations of the California Public Resources Code, trespass by fire, strict liability and indemnity pursuant to SoCal Edison's special use permit for its power lines, breach of the special use permit, as well as interest and penalties.

The government asks for damages to be determined at trial for fire suppression costs, property damage, resource damages and any and all other costs, including for rehabilitation, restoration and reforestation of the burned areas. The government also seeks double or triple damages for wrongful injury to the United States’ timber, trees, and underwood.

The Forest Service is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah Quist and Joseph W. Tursi of the Civil Division’s Complex and Defensive Litigation Section of the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.
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Offline Joe Schmoe

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I'd countersue for incompetent firefighting.  The complete lack of urgency on display in videos taken at the beginning stages of the fire was shameful.  And then using the inversion layer (which is ALWAYS present the LA basin) as an excuse to not fly aerial firefighting equipment and just let the fire burn over the crest made this a predictable disaster. 

Also, if this was started somewhere other than a highly-trafficked hiking trail then it would be a slam dunk case.  But....it wasn't.  Shady Azusa Canyon people inhabit that trail in very large numbers.  SCE shouldn't lose this one, but they are incompetent in other ways, so I guess it could go either way.