The Butte Wildfire raged for nearly a month through Amador and Calaveras counties in California, killing 3 people, destroying 475 homes and charring approximately 71,000 acres. Several areas were completely destroyed by the catastrophe, with the Mountain Ranch community in Calaveras County suffering a particularly high level of damage. About 950 structures, including 475 homes and 343 outbuildings, were a complete loss. The fire, which lasted from September 9-October 2, 2015, was ranked the seventh most destructive wildfire in California history.
But what makes this fire even more tragic is that power utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) may have played a direct role in causing it. As a result, they are considering legal action against PG&E, claiming the utility was negligent in clearing vegetation. According to a news report, a PG&E spokesperson said a preliminary investigation showed that a tree touched a live power line owned by the company, sparking the blaze.
President Obama declared Calaveras County a disaster area, making residents eligible to apply for financial assistance from the federal government. The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) announced that people suffering losses might be eligible for help. Those who were underinsured or uninsured would be eligible, as well as those whose insurance settlements were delayed by 30 days or more.
Many people, however, realize that government money will only go so far in helping pick up the pieces from the devastating Butte Wildfire and chose to take legal action against PG&E. Plaintiffs in potential lawsuits may be able to sue for several different types of damages, including displacement expenses (approximately 13,000 residents had to evacuate due to the fire), lost wages, loss of property and others.
A Dubious History
This is not the first time PG&E has been the target of a wildfire-related lawsuit. In 1997, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the utility was found guilty of more than 700 counts of negligence resulting from a 1994 fire that destroyed 12 homes in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California. The investigators in the Sierra Nevada case determined that a 21,000-volt power line touched a tree limb that should have been trimmed by PG&E. Although California state law requires that utilities trim vegetation to maintain a separation of at least 10 feet between high-voltage power lines and flammable vegetation, PG&E has been charged with thousands of violations regarding tree trimming. According to the newspaper, investigators with the California Department of Forestry determined that PG&E had been responsible for many other major wildfires due to the company’s failure to follow proper safety regulations. According to the article, investigators had found hundreds of violations in Nevada County alone. Approximately 200 of these violations were called “burners” by the investigators, or incidents where vegetation contacted a power line.
How Baron & Budd Can Help
If you suffered losses due to the Butte Wildfire, you may be able to take legal action in an effort to obtain compensation for your damages. Please contact the national law firm of Baron & Budd by calling 866-364-6376 or complete our contact form. We will carefully listen to the details of your case and let you know how we may be able to help.