Beginning on December 4, 2017, the Thomas Fire burned more than 280,000 acres throughout Ventura and Santa Barbara counties as it swept across the hills of idyllic seaside communities. Two people lost their lives, tens-of-thousands of residents were displaced and more than 1,300 homes and structures were destroyed by what is now considered the most catastrophic wildfire in California’s history. From Santa Paula to Ventura to the Ojai Valley, residents were forced to flee their homes to escape the flames and returned to landscapes void of vegetation that were left vulnerable to the destruction that comes from erosion, flash floods and debris flows when rains returned to the region.
Six weeks after the Thomas Fire began, these Central Coast communities were devastated once again as torrential rains poured down charred hillsides as a result of the fire. Deadly flash floods and mudslides swept through neighborhoods in the early hours of January 9, 2018 and destroyed more than 125 homes, damaged hundreds more, injured 28 people and claimed the lives at least 21 residents in the community of Montecito – the cause of death of each victim identified by the County coroner as “multiple traumatic injures due to flash flood with mudslides due to recent wildfire.” The search continues for two people who remain missing.
While the cause of the Thomas Fire remains unknown and is being investigated by California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL Fire), other fire agencies and the California Public Utilities Commission, Southern California Edison acknowledged in a press release that the utility “believes the investigations now include the possible role of its facilities” and “continues to cooperate with the investigations.”
Fires caused by the failure of power lines and poorly maintained equipment owned and operated by utility companies regularly ranks among the top sources of wildfires throughout California. The attorneys at Panish, Shea & Boyle LLP, Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, and Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger have extensive experience in litigation against utility companies and have come together to investigate claims of negligence against Southern California Edison (SCE).
Recovering compensation for damages sustained as a result of the Thomas Fire will be a long and arduous process but our law firms have the resources and tenacity to see the matter to a conclusion. Our combined experience includes prosecution of wildland and wildfires caused by utility line failures, with attorneys specializing in wrongful death, catastrophic injury and property damage litigation. Companies like Southern California Edison must be held accountable for their negligent actions.
If you were impacted by the Thomas Fire and would like to discuss your legal options, please call us at (877) 497-3549 to schedule a free consultation.