Thomas Fire victims file class action lawsuit against California utility

The wildfire has displaced more than 100,000 people from their homes.

ByABC News
January 5, 2018, 1:27 PM

— -- A class action lawsuit has been filed against Southern California Edison, alleging the utility sparked the biggest wildfire in the state's modern history.

Nine plaintiffs, who jointly filed the suit last month, claim Southern California Edison's negligence led to the Thomas Fire, which ignited in the evening hours of Dec. 6.

"Had SCE acted responsibly," the lawsuit, referring to the utility, reads, "the Thomas Fire could have been prevented."

The utility displayed negligence, the lawsuit alleges, by performing construction near a facility in "an unsafe manner," which caused vegetation to catch fire. It also failed to "maintain its overhead electric and communications facilities in a safe manner," and didn't remove trees or vegetation around its utility poles, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also names Ventura City and the Casitas Municipal Water District as defendants for failing to have working generators on hand that could have helped with water pressure.

"For some inexplicable reason," the suit says, "the City of Ventura failed to have on hand properly working backup generators, which prevented desperately needed water pressure to be supplied to the fire hydrants located in the hillside neighborhoods and canyons of Ventura."

The Thomas Fire burned through more than 242,000 acres, destroyed more than 1,000 structures and required thousands of firefighters to extinguish it. The wildfire has displaced more than 100,000 people from their homes, the lawsuit said.

Southern California Edison issued a statement saying it is "unable to comment on pending lawsuits due to the Cal Fire investigation now underway."

Kevin Brown, Ventura City's water general manager, said he shared "heartfelt sympathy for those who have lost their homes or have been displaced by the Thomas Fire." He added that the city doesn't comment on pending litigation, but commended the "Fire Department and Ventura Water crews on their response to this emergency."

A spokesman for the Municipal Water District said the company would not comment because of pending litigation.

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified monetary damages.