Today the County of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against Southern California Edison and Edison International (“SCE”) to recover costs and damages from the devastating Woolsey Fire. The fire, which started November 8, 2018, consumed more than 96,000 acres, destroyed 1,643 buildings, damaged another 360 structures, put hundreds of surviving homes at risk of mudslides and debris flow, and killed three people. LA County is joined in the suit by the Los Angeles County Flood Control District and the Consolidated Fire Protection District for Los Angeles County. On Monday night, the City of Malibu announced plans to file a similar lawsuit.
LA County incurred over $100 million in costs and damages from the Woolsey Fire including fire suppression, emergency response and recovery efforts, infrastructure damages, injury to natural resources, loss of tax revenue, and other significant losses. More than a dozen County departments and thousands of County employees were involved in responding to the Woolsey Fire and ongoing recovery efforts.
While the cause of the Woolsey Fire is currently under investigation by CalFIRE, SCE has stated in its February 2019 federal Form 10-K investor filing that “it believes that its equipment could be found to have been associated with the ignition of the fire.” Two minutes before the fire started, SCE noted a disturbance on its equipment near where the fire began and reported it to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). SCE has acknowledged finding a pole support wire (guy wire) on the ground near an electrical wire (jumper) that was energized prior to the outage. The guy wire may have come into contact with the jumper causing sparks which could have ignited the fire.
“This legal action is an important and essential step toward accountability and recovery,” said LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, whose district includes most of the Woolsey fire burn area. “Although I know it won’t bring people’s homes or businesses back, and won’t heal the trauma or grief my constituents are experiencing, or restore our charred hillsides, it’s very important to require entities to be held responsible.”