LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Los Angeles County Thursday filed a lawsuit against Southern California Edison alleging that the power utility is likely to blame for sparking the devastating Woolsey Fire, and looking to recoup tens of millions of dollars associated with battling the blaze which tore through Malibu last November.
L.A. County incurred more than $100 million in costs and damages from the Woolsey Fire, according to a news release from L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl announcing the lawsuit.
In an investor filing back in February, SoCal Edison admitted that a pole support wire was found near an energized electrical wire just prior to an outage in SCE’s electrical system in the area of the origin of the Woolsey Fire. It reported that outage to the California Public Utilities Commission.
‘SCE believes that its equipment could be found to have been associated with the ignition of the Woolsey Fire,” it wrote in that filing.
CAL Fire is still investigating the cause of the fire and has not yet reached a conclusion.
“This legal action is an important and essential step toward accountability and recovery,” Kuehl said in a statement. “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.”
Last month, CAL Fire determined that a downed power line owned by SCE caused the Thomas Fire in December 2017 which destroyed more than 750 homes and scorched over 281,000 acres.
On Nov. 8, the 97,000-acre Woolsey Fire broke out south of Simi Valley. It then jumped the south side of the 101 Freeway near Calabasas and spread into Malibu. The fire destroyed more than 1,500 structures and was responsible for three deaths.
Utility giant Pacific Gas and Electric is also facing blame for several massive wildfires in Northern California. In late February, PG&E admitted that was it likely responsible for starting the Camp Fire which ripped through Butte County last November, destroying thousands of homes and killing dozens of people.
In late January, PG&E’s board voted to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in anticipation of its liability in multiple 2017 and 2018 wildfires. Its CEO, Geisha Williams, also resigned. CAL Fire has determined that PG&E was responsible for at least 17 of the blazes in the October 2017 firestorm. When its said and done, the utility could face at least $30 billion in damages from all these wildfires.