There is now a full-blown investigation into whether the recent devastating, deadly Wine Country fires in Northern California have been caused by downed Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) power lines. According to a news report in the Los Angeles Times, this is not a far-fetched theory because the explosive failure of power lines and other electrical equipment has regularly ranked among the top three singular sources of California wildfires over the last several years. In the year 2015, electrical power problems sparked the burning of 149,241 acres.
Ongoing Investigation into Fires
With the Northern California fires, investigators are looking into emergency radio traffic recordings that show fire crews were dispatched to at least 10 spots in Sonoma County in response to reports of sparking electrical wires and exploding transformers as high winds hit the area the night of October 8, 2017. The first fires were reported around the same time those calls came in. The fires have been burning for more than eight days and the death toll from these fires is now up to 41.
The electrical lines and equipment in Sonoma County are owned by PG&E. Critics of the utility say it shouldn’t take such a large catastrophe to show how bad the problem is. They say lax regulation and enforcement have led to the continuing problem of wildfires caused by power equipment failures. Critics also say power companies don’t do their due diligence when it comes to repairing their equipment and ensuring that trees are trimmed around power lines to prevent disasters. Cal Fire officials say it is too early to blame the utility giant, and that the cause still remains undetermined.
Compensation for Victims
Our California personal injury lawyers are staying abreast of the official investigation. Right now, there do seem to be links between the PG&E power equipment failures and the wildfires. If the official investigation does confirm that, then, victims of the wildfires – those who have lost their homes, property and loved ones – can file civil lawsuits against the utility company seeking compensation for their tremendous damages.
Regardless of the outcome of this investigation, the state’s Public Utilities Commission should revisit its enforcement policies and ensure that utility companies who charge ratepayers a lot of money for their services, do their part in updating and maintaining their electrical equipment. It should not take a catastrophe this large and tragic to effect a change in these policies. Our hearts go out to everyone who has lost loved ones and their homes in these wildfires.