As firefighters make progress against wildfires that have burned nearly 250,000 acres in Northern California, tens of thousands of residents forced to flee the flames are beginning to return to their communities. Six of the seven Wine Country Fires are now more than 50 percent contained, with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) having managed to create containment lines to stop the fires’ forward progress. A forecast of rain will aid firefighters who are anticipating full containment of the fires by Friday.
Since the October 8th fires began, at least 42 people have been killed, more than 5,700 structures destroyed and property losses throughout Santa Rosa, Napa, Sonoma and Calistoga are expected to total in the billions of dollars. More than 50 people remain missing, many of them homeless, and those that escaped with their lives are seeking answers as to the cause of the fires that devastated their communities.
Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP is investigating possible negligence by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) amid reports citing downed power lines and exploding transformers as a potential cause of the wildfires. The firm has joined forces with the attorneys at Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora, LLP, Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & Emery, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger and Morgan & Morgan to ensure that families and businesses affected by this catastrophic firestorm are given a strong voice and that those responsible for their devastating losses are held accountable.
Cal Fire and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) have also launched their own investigation into the utility, with the CPUC sending a letter to PG&E demanding it preserve any possible evidence that may aid in the state’s investigation into determining the cause of the fire.
The San Francisco-based utility company has a history of noncompliance with state law in failing to do its due diligence to properly maintain equipment and adequately cut back trees from existing power lines in order to reduce the potential risk of fire.
In 2015, PG&E was faulted for negligence in causing the Butte Fire in Amador County after it was determined a poorly maintained tree came into contact with a power line. In 2010, PG&E was found negligent in the San Bruno pipeline explosion and fire that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes after a natural gas pipeline burst and sent a giant plume of fire into the air.
Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP attorneys successfully sued PG&E as a result of the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion and have consistently obtained some of the largest verdicts against utility companies, including a $19.8 million jury verdict against Southern California Gas Company for a man who suffered severe burn and traumatic brain injuries when his rental home exploded as a result of SoCalGas’ negligence.
“Utility companies have an obligation to keep the public safe,” says Brian Panish, who serves as co-lead trial counsel against SoCalGas in the Porter Ranch Gas Leak litigation. “PG&E has demonstrated time and time again a diminished standard of care by failing to adhere to its own policies, with residents throughout Northern California once again suffering the consequences. It must be held accountable for failing the public.”
If you are considering legal action as a result of the Wine Country wildfires – including the Tubbs, Atlas, Nuns, Oakmont, Adobe, Partrick and Pocket fires – contact our attorneys at Panish | Shea | Boyle | Ravipudi LLP at (877) 278-2330 to schedule a free consultation.