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Who Is Liable for the Camp Fire?


The California Camp Fire of 2018 is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history, as well as the deadliest wildfire in the entire United States since 1918. Scorching 153,400 acres of land, including most of the city of Paradise, the fire killed 86 people and injured 12, including several firefighters. But as of December 2019, only 11 of the 11,000 homes destroyed in the fire have been rebuilt – meaning that thousands of people are still homeless throughout the state.

Shortly after the fire began, local officials and fire experts expressed concern that the fire was caused by a faulty power line, which was owned by private energy utility company Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). In May 2019, fire authorities at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) confirmed that PG&E was indeed responsible for the Camp Fire.

How Did the Camp Fire Start?

The Camp Fire began on the morning of November 8th, 2019, when two different ignition points were sparked by PG&E-owned power lines. Because of strong winds and dry brush in the region, the fires spread quickly across the Pulga area before blazing a path of destruction in Paradise. This is far from the first time that PG&E has been responsible for a major fire: In fact, the utilities giant has been deemed responsible for more than 1,500 California wildfires over the last 5 years.

Is PG&E Liable for Damages?

Although PG&E is a private utility, it assumes the responsibility of conducting business as what has historically been considered to be a public service. This means that PG&E is subject to strict liability under California inverse condemnation laws – and the company can be held accountable for wildfire damage even if there is no negligence involved.

Because the Camp Fire was directly caused by faulty and poorly-maintained power lines, it’s little wonder that PG&E faced a veritable flood of lawsuits after the fire settled down. Facing billions of dollars in legal claims, PG&E eventually filed for bankruptcy in January 2019, citing Chapter 11 bankruptcy laws.

Earlier estimates had shown that the company could be liable for up to $30 billion in total property damage and injury claims, but in September 2019, it was reported that PG&E would only be paying $11 billion to resolve their claims with the insurance companies, on top of $1 billion promised to state and local governments. Victims of the Camp Fire have voiced concerns that the insurance companies will be paid long before victims see any compensation.

Why Is PG&E Shutting Off Power?

Fearing that history would repeat itself, PG&E cut off electrical power to over 800,000 customers throughout Northern and Central California in early October 2019, after the weather forecast warned of widespread “severe wind events.” Rather than fixing their decaying power line infrastructure throughout the state, the utilities company sought to protect itself from further liability in the event of another major wildfire. In doing so, however, it caused thousands of Californians to suffer even greater damages.

From lost business to spoiled food, the rolling black-outs and power outages put many Californians at risk of injury and unnecessary financial expense – especially those over the age of 65, many of whom depend on electrical power as part of their medical care plan.

Consult a Qualified California Eminent Domain Attorney

Have you lost your home in the Camp Fire, or suffered other damages as the result of negligence at PG&E? If so, it’s vital that you retain an attorney who is familiar with both personal injury law and eminent domain, as you may be able to explore multiple avenues for recovery after the Camp Fire. Because PG&E serves as a public utility, you could be eligible for compensation under inverse condemnation laws – and because it is a privately-owned company, you could also be eligible to pursue a conventional civil lawsuit for property damage, injuries, and other losses.

At Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin, LLP, our experienced attorneys have recovered over $300 million for our clients in the areas of both eminent domain and personal injury. Passionate about insuring that our clients receive justice for their losses, our AV-Rated® will fight on your behalf and seek the compensation that you deserve.

Contact Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin, LLP online or call us at (888) 998-2031 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced California lawyer today.