California Wildfire Attorney
The Devastation of California’s Camp Fire
In the autumn of 2018, California was affected by a fast-moving and devastating fire that completely destroyed an entire city, taking the lives of a least 85 people and leaving thousands of others without homes. The Camp Fire began in the early hours of November 8 that roughly 6:30 am in Butte County. What started as a small California wildfire quickly turned into a seventeen-day tragedy in which over 153,000 acres were burned, nearly 14,000 structures were destroyed, and almost 5,000 commercial and industrial buildings were engulfed in this deadly blaze.
As the smoke settles and people begin to rebuild their lives, many are uncertain about what to do next. For those who lost a loved one, we at Brady Law Group want to stand by your side and protect your rights. When the negligent or reckless behavior of another causes personal injury or the death of a loved one, you have a legal right to hold that person or company responsible. As local California residents ourselves, we understand just how devastating these fires can be. Don’t let those responsible escape justice. Contact the Brady Law Group today.
Butte County Camp Fire
Despite the best efforts of over 1,000 firefighters, at least 85 people perished in the fast-moving fire. To date, eleven people are still reported missing. The majority of this devastation affected those living in Butte County, east of the Golden State Highway. For those in the small, isolated town of Paradise, the fast-moving Camp Fire ravaged buildings and homes, leaving only ash and collapsing structures in its path.
As the fire moved through the town and has since been contained, people from Paradise and the surrounding communities have struggled with what to do next. While some plan to return and rebuild, many more have decided to move away altogether. For those who lost friends and family in the blaze, this decision can be especially difficult. You don’t have to face it alone. At Brady Law Group, we’ll fight by your side against those responsible for the injuries and deaths suffered in the Camp Fire.
This wildfire is California’s most devastating and deadly. Countless families and friends lost those they cared for. If you did, you have a right to seek legal recourse to defend your loved one’s memory.
Is PG&E Responsible for the California Wildfires?
While an investigation is ongoing, several factors suggest that the utility company Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) was responsible for the Camp Fire. Shortly before the fire began, PG&E experienced a high-voltage line malfunction which likely produced the spark that started the fire. Similar power line malfunctions such as the one experienced by PG&E have been responsible for sparking more than a dozen fires in California in the last year alone, including the Tubbs Fire. PG&E has a history of failing to maintain their power lines and power poles in Butte County.
The company may have also had problems with the design and construction of their equipment, and some reports suggest that they do not properly and regularly maintain the growth of flammable vegetation around their equipment. All of these factors make wildfires in California more likely and could potentially contribute to PG&E being held liable for the damages, injuries, and deaths caused by the Camp Fire in Butte County.
PG&E has a responsibility to maintain their power poles and other utility equipment and to contain the potentially hazardous vegetation around their infrastructure. When they fail to adhere to their duty of care to California residents, PG&E runs the risk of causing potentially fatal wildfires in California that expose them to billions of dollars in liability.
No matter the determination of the investigation, PG&E will argue that they were not responsible or were at least not the only party responsible. As they drag the case through court, the victims most affected by this will struggle to return to their lives. This isn’t fair, and the team at Brady Law Group is here to help you make sure that the liable party is held accountable and pays for the damages that they caused.
PG&E’s Role in California Wildfires
This isn’t the first time that the utility company PG&E has been in the spotlight due to unsafe business practices, and it will most likely not be the last.
In the past two years, PG&E has been accused of being responsible for two huge fires: The Tubbs Fire of 2017, and the Camp Fire of 2018. The Tubbs Fire in October 2017 burned 36,810 acres, destroyed 5,643 structures including residential homes, and killed 22 people. It was the deadliest fire in California’s history at the time. A little over a year later, it was bested by the Camp Fire. The Camp Fire was four times more destructive and deadly.
For those looking to get justice and compensation after being affected by the Camp Fire, PG&E’s history of causing fires in California is both a benefit and a detriment. While they have a history of negligence, the company also understands how to defend themselves and their assets against these accusations.
If you’ve been injured in the Butte County fires or lost a loved one in the Camp Fire, you need an attorney who knows and understands the complexity of California wildfire lawsuits. At the Brady Law Group, we have experience assisting California wildfire victims in these complex lawsuits and would like to help you too. Our lawyers are waiting to hear from you to discuss your claim and to help you file a lawsuit against PG&E and anyone else who is found to be liable so that you are able to get the compensation that you are entitled to.
We cannot allow PG&E to walk away from this fire without responsibility or consequence. It’s time for justice, and it’s time for fire victims to be able to rebuild their lives. If you would like to speak to one of our experienced attorneys about your fire claim, contact us today.
What is PG&E?
PG&E, or Pacific Gas and Electric Company, is the power company that provides power and energy services to most of California. PG&E operates as the sole provider in some areas, leaving California residents with no option to switch utility companies. Because of this monopoly, PG&E’s equipment expands across California, reaching a possible 163,694.7 square miles of potentially flammable land.
PG&E is aware of the location and status every power pole, transformer, power plant, natural gas plant, and headquarters they own and maintain. They are a multi-billion dollar company, so to use the excuse that it’s just too much to maintain is almost laughable. Should they want to, PG&E has the resources to streamline the services that they offer and hire additional workers to upgrade and maintain the property that PG&E’s equipment is located on.
As a public utility company, PG&E has a responsibility to those who use its service to safely provide them with gas and electricity. While the company did not mean to start the fire, the evidence suggests their products likely caused the spark which ignited the Camp Fire. It may be a large company that takes in over $17 billion in revenue, but it is not exempt from the consequences of its actions.
Who Was Affected by the Camp Fire?
The Camp Fire was the worst wildfire in California, causing an unprecedented number of deaths and property damage. The cities of Paradise, Centerville, Pulga, Butte Creek Canyon, Magalia, Concow, and Yankee Hill were all evacuated as the fire approached, displacing thousands of people. As they left, they did so uncertain about whether or not they’d have a home to come back to. For most of the residents of Paradise and Concow, they wouldn’t.
By the end of the first day, the towns of Paradise and Concow were completely destroyed. The roads out of the towns quickly became overwhelmed, and many left their cars on the roads and fled on foot. Others escaped the flames by jumping into a nearby water reservoir or their own pool. Many people had to leave behind precious memories, important documents, and in some cases their treasured pets because there was just no time to adequately prepare.
Even those beyond the direct path of the Camp Fire were affected. In Northern California and the Bay Area, large plumes of smoke filled with ash, hazardous chemicals, and other unsafe materials descended upon the area. The smoke became so thick that many schools and universities canceled classes.
Those who were directly affected saw the most damage and loss. Some lost businesses or homes, while others lost friends and family. Some people simply lost everything. Many survivors of this fire are currently living in a tent in a Walmart parking lot, waiting to hear from their insurance companies if their losses will be covered and when they might receive compensation to start rebuilding. For many, the uncertainty is overwhelming as they wait in limbo for their claims to be addressed.
85 people already lost their lives in this fire. As the investigation continues, it’s likely that number will continue to grow. Some of the injuries sustained by the victims of the Camp Fire range from minor burns and scorched lungs to catastrophic burns and injuries. The Camp Fire cost the most unfortunate souls their lives. These injuries can take a lifetime to heal and cost thousands of dollars in medical bills. If you’ve been injured in the Camp Fire or lost a loved in the fires across Butte County, our legal team can help.
Financial Cost of Camp Fire
While the final cost of the Camp Fire will not be known for some time, current estimates are available. Damages for the Camp Fire are currently expected to be between $7.5 billion and $10 billion. The vast number of homes, businesses, and properties that were destroyed as a result of this fire contribute to the high estimate, but the final cost will also take into account personal property and loss of life.
With such high numbers, many people are worried about whether or not their fire insurance and homeowner policies will be paid out. Some insurance companies have started processing claims but were almost immediately overwhelmed. The need for speedy help is so great that the government in California is literally asking these companies to award money sooner to help victims recover as fast as they can.
With such universal devastation and the high cost of recovery, insurance companies are placing extra care and attention to save themselves as much money as possible. As insurance companies review the fire insurance claims, they will search for any reason to award less or no money at all to the victims of the Camp Fire.
The final cost of the Camp Fire will likely be even higher than the initial estimates. PG&E and insurance companies will do everything in their power to avoid paying for these claims, but with the help of an experienced California fire attorney, you can ensure they are held accountable.
Did PG&E Behave Negligently?
PG&E has a duty to provide its customers with its products in a safe manner. No one disputes that PG&E provides a service to its clients. However, it’s unclear whether or not PG&E provided these services in a safe and responsible manner and did all they could to prevent the type of disaster that occurred this November.
A class- action lawsuit filed against PG&E for their role in the Camp Fire states that they did not. In the suit, PG&E is accused of causing the deadly blaze and for acting in a negligent and reckless way that allowed the fire to start. The lawsuit against PG&E also claims the company did not maintain the land on which they house their equipment. High winds contributed to the rapid speed at which the fire spread. PG&E knew about the potential danger that the wind posed to their power lines, but did not suspend service in these areas. Had they taken preemptive action, they could have prevented the fire from starting altogether.
In June of 1997, PG&E was blamed for not trimming the trees near their power lines, which then sparked a large fire. At the time, the company was charged with 739 counts of criminal negligence for their failure to maintain their land. In 2010, a pipeline exploded in San Bruno, California that ended up killing eight people and causing another substantial fire. The pipe in question was found to be at least 54 years old, which was one of the many reasons it failed.
In 2009, the year before this incident, a safety inspector visited and warned PG&E about the possible disaster that could occur, but the company ignored this warning. This penchant for ignoring safety recommendations could have easily contributed to the environment in which the Camp Fire was allowed to begin.
When looking at the history of this company and recent events, it’s not surprising that PG&E may have acted negligently in the Camp Fire. Should they be found guilty of having started the blaze, PG&E may be required to compensate the state of California and the victims of the Camp Fire for the losses and damages that this fire caused.
Examples of Utility Companies Causing Fires in California
PG&E, though the largest of these companies, is not the only utility company to cause fires in the state of California. In 2014, regulators wanted a way to prevent fires in the state. Regulators began to require that utility companies must report incidents in which their equipment sparked a fire. Between the years 2014 – 2018, over 2,000 fires were been reported by utility companies, though many of those were for small fires that were quickly contained and extinguished.
The Thomas Fire in 2017 was ultimately blamed on the utility company Southern California Edison. The fire burned more than 700 homes before it was put out, affecting thousands of California residents and destroying hundreds of homes. As with PG&E, Southern California Edison has a history of sparking wildfires in California. From 2014-2018, California Edison reported 347 fires, and although they serve about the same number of customers as PG&E, they provide service in a much smaller area.
Three-quarters of all fires that are caused by utility companies were reported by PG&E. The company does not seem to have learned from its previous mistakes and has continued to place residents at risk. The recent Camp Fire in Butte County is only one of the fires potentially started by the actions of PG&E, and, if they’re found guilty, they have a legal obligation to compensate those affected by this devastating California wildfire.
How the PG&E Bailout Bill (SB901) Affects Victims
PG&E had a large bill to pay at the beginning of 2018. Faced with the billion-dollar cost of the Tubbs fire, the company needed a way to pass the cost off so that they didn’t have to file for bankruptcy. At the end of August of 2018, a bailout bill was passed in California and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The bill allowed PG&E to raise rates on their customers to help pay off their debts from the fires of 2017. Although many people weren’t happy with this bill, the California government was determined to prevent PG&E from avoiding payment altogether by filing for bankruptcy.
While the intent of this bill was to help victims of the fire, many PG&E customers saw it as them having to pay for the horrendous mistakes of a multi-billion-dollar company. Though the bill only applied to the fires in 2017, lawmakers are currently debating expanding the scope of the bill to include fires from 2018, the Camp Fire in particular. Though no bill has been officially proposed, the likelihood that the sheer cost of the fire will bankrupt the company increases the likelihood of something similar to SB901 passing the California legislature.
For victims of the Camp Fire, this bill could prevent PG&E from denying victims the compensation they deserve after losing their home or a loved one. However, it could also mean increased rates for those not affected. PG&E cannot continue hiding behind rate increases to compensate for their negligent behavior, and with a California attorney at your side, you can hold them accountable for their actions.
California Camp Fire Attorney
If you or someone you know has been injured in the Camp Fire, you may be wondering where you can turn to have help putting your life back together. The long-term consequences and costs of this deadly fire can be difficult to determine, especially as you fight against your insurance company. The estimate your insurance company provides will attempt to underestimate the true cost of recovery, but once you accept their offer, you cannot ask for more later on. After losing everything in the fire, the last thing you should be doing is arguing with your insurance company or PG&E about the money you’re entitled to.
At the Brady Law Group, we are prepared to help you with a claim against those responsible for your losses. As members of the California community, we have experienced the devastation of these wildfires ourselves and understand how to oversee California wildfire lawsuits and claims.
We can help you make this a time of healing and rest rather than a time of stress and worry. When you have an attorney from Brady Law Group at your side, you can rest easy knowing your case is in the hands of a team of dedicated and knowledgeable attorneys who won’t rest until your side is heard.
If you’d like to talk to an experienced California personal injury and wrongful death attorney, contact us today at (415) – 459 – 7300. We are here to help you, and we are ready to be your personal fighters in your case. Don’t let those responsible escape without consequence. Your story deserves to be heard, and we’re here to defend it. Contact the Brady Law Group today.