PG&E aims to cut down up to 25,000 fire-damaged trees in an urgent effort to protect power lines in 13 counties across Northern and Central California, including Sonoma, where last month’s wildfires scorched 137 square miles.

Residents in fire areas may have noticed bright green spray-painted marks at the base of trunks on trees near power lines. They were left by PG&E arborists and foresters who are assessing the trees’ post-fire condition, company representatives said.

Trees marked P1 are deemed dead or dying and designated for immediate removal to prevent damage to power lines, while those marked P2 have secondary priority.

Trees with an FP 1 or 2 mark will be trimmed.

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The brother of a paraplegic woman who was killed when the Tubbs fire destroyed her assisted living center in Santa Rosa sued PG&E Thursday in what appears to be the first wrongful death claim connected to the recent wildfires.

Tamara Latrice Thomas, 47, was burned to death Oct. 9 inside the Crestview Court Residential Care Home on Crestview Court in the city’s hard-hit Coffey Park neighborhood. Officials have not yet publicly identified her as one of the 23 people known to have died in fires across Sonoma County that burned about 100,000 acres and leveled almost 4,000 homes.

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Residents of fire-ravaged Journey’s End Mobile Home Park will soon be allowed back into the property at the north end of Santa Rosa, possibly as soon as Thursday, but the bigger question — whether they will ever be able to call it home again — remains unanswered.

Owners of the property, a haven for low-income seniors since the 1960s, have yet to decide whether they will restore the burned-out water, gas, power and sewer systems that serve the 161 sites rented by residents who own their homes.

“The future is unclear,” said Greg Evans, president of the Santa Cruz-based company that manages the park on behalf of the owners, a family Evans declined to name. “We are trying to assess the options.”

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(From Press Release) – On Tuesday, November 14th at 11 a.m., attorneys from five of California’s most prestigious law firms will hold a press conference to announce a series of lawsuits filed against Pacific Gas & Electric Company on behalf of victims of the North Bay Fires. The plaintiffs include Sonoma County resident Gregory Wilson who, along with his wife, sought refuge in a swimming pool in an effort to avoid being burned as well as former San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan and his wife, Wendy Paskin-Jordan who fled the fire and lost their Santa Rosa home.

“When I looked up, the flames were 50 or 60 feet high coming over the hills and they were coming our way,” Jordan told the San Francisco Chronicle. “ There are people worse off than we are —seniors, on fixed incomes who lost their homes and are sitting in shelters.”

Attorneys at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora, LLP, Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger and Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & Emery have joined forces and resources to investigate and prosecute claims for which PG&E is responsible. The San Francisco-based utility has a well-documented disregard for safety regulations. and has been the subject of repeated criticism of effective maintenance and inspection practices of their facilities and equipment in light of an aging infrastructure. The law firm investigators have spent hundreds of hours on the causes and contributing factors that led to one of the most destructive and deadly fires in California history.

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To the list of people suing Pacific Gas and Electric Co. over last month’s Wine Country fires, add the former top official of PG&E’s hometown — former San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan.

Jordan and his wife, Wendy Paskin-Jordan, will join a suit blaming PG&E for sparking the fires, law firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy reported Monday. Jordan is expected to appear at a news conference Tuesday at the firm’s Burlingame office.

Jordan and his wife owned a weekend home on Mark West Springs Road in Santa Rosa. They fled the night of Oct. 8 after seeing flames in the distance and warning their neighbors.

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A heartbreaking nine-minute compilation video by Press Democrat photographer Kent Porter documents the first hours of the devastating Tubbs fire the early morning of Oct. 9.

The video shows what it was like on the front lines as the blaze roared through parts of Santa Rosa, ultimately killing 21 people and burning more than 36,000 acres.

Read an hour-by-hour account of the fire by Press Democrat reporter Julie Johnson here and see a New York Times map of the fire’s progression here.

See the video here (warning: disturbing video):

According to the October 17, 2017, Press Democrat, “The explosive failure of power lines and other electrical equipment has regularly ranked among the top three singular sources of California wildfires for the last several years.” For example, “In 2015, the last year of reported data, electrical power problems sparked the burning of 149,241 acres- more than twice the amount from any other cause.”

The above data does not include the October 2017 fires which more than double these tragic losses. Electric lines are the single most dangerous fire risk to our communities and families in California. The known risks of electric lines have been known since the dawn of powerlines in the early part of the last century.

There are a number of sources of fire ignition from powerlines and equipment. First, consider the known risk of fire from the drought for the last 5 years. We have seen other fires before the October 2017 fires since the drought began, so the added and increased danger these last few years was a foreseeable and known danger.

If a power pole is not properly maintained, they can collapse in winds or if struck by a tree. This results in a live power line going to the ground which creates a known fire danger. If a tree falls into wires and either causes wires to cross or causes lines to be knocked to the ground, then this will also create a known fire danger. A tree limb can also fall across power lines causing them to break or cross and create the same fire risk. Trees can also fall into transformers and cause damage which results in fire danger.

The above-known fire risks will be increased in drought conditions and if a utility fails to clear the trees, brush and ‘fuel’ under the powerlines, this will also increase the risk of a fire taking hold. A utility can be responsible for failing to maintain trees or failing to clear the fuel source under the lines.

There can also be an increased fire risk if power lines are not de-energized as soon as they fall. A conductor or line on the ground with no power reduces or eliminates the fire risk. There is also some equipment which can surge power to a downed line, and such equipment can also cause fires. Fire danger is a known risk of downed power lines and electrical equipment.

The California PUC regulates utilities to attempt to reduce fire risks. In addition to the CPUC rules, there are other laws in California which require utilities to reduce or eliminate fire risks.

* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the PG&E lawsuits, and should not be received as legal advice. If you are already represented by legal counsel please rely upon them for information and advice. No guarantees or representations about the success of the PG&E lawsuits can be drawn from this information.

 – The brother of a paraplegic woman who died in the Tubbs fire last month has filed a negligence and unlawful death lawsuit in Sonoma County against PG&E.
   
Torrey Thomas’ lawsuit and others allege PG&E’s failure to maintain its electrical power lines caused them to fall to the ground and spark the Tubbs fire that killed 23 people in Sonoma County last month.
   
Thomas’ sister Tamara Thomas, 47, died in a 6-bed residential care home on Crestview Court near the Coffey Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa.
   
“Tamara Thomas was my sister – my only sister. She died 26 days ago and I still can’t get it out of my head. She knew that she was going to burn alive. And she did. This didn’t have to happen. She didn’t have to die,” Thomas read in a prepared statement.
   

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Whether you have insurance or do not have insurance, you have no doubt discovered that you have more losses than insurance covers and many losses that can never be replaced. Insurance will at best cover only part of your losses if you have insurance.

General categories of losses include:

  • Businesses Damaged by Fire or Smoke
  • Businesses Disrupted by the Fires or Who Lost Customers
  • Homeowners
  • Renters
  • Property Damages
  • Loss of Job or Income
  • Wrongful Death
  • Physical Injuries
  • Emotional Distress

Some losses are obvious, like the cost to rebuild a home. However, even rebuilt a home may have a lower value due to the appearance of the neighborhood and loss of trees and vegetation. If you choose not to rebuild, your lot may have a decrease in value due to the fires, and this would also be a loss.

Additional living expenses may only last 2 years under some insurance policies and people may not be able to rebuild in that time frame. The lack of materials, building crews, and other building professionals may delay rebuilding. Thus some people may be forced to relocate and incur moving expenses.

Personal property, i.e. the stuff in your home or apartment, often has value not covered by insurance. We all have irreplaceable photos and family heirlooms, collections, and other items which will not be valued fully or covered by insurance. Limitations in some insurance policies will cap the value your insurer will pay. However, caps on insurance are irrelevant as to what can be recovered in
Court or by settlement. You will need to make a detailed list of all such property. Simply, because insurance may not pay for the item does not mean that you cannot recover the full or fair value of the loss in Court.

Also, consider collecting photos from friends and family to confirm what personal property you owned. Such photos may also help demonstrate the value of your house or other property damaged like yards, landscaping, pools, or children’s play areas. Additionally, any video you have which shows the property before and after the fire is very useful.

For business owners, tax record or profit and loss statements will be useful to prove loss of income if your business was disrupted. Similarly, if your business was damaged by the smoke or fire, in addition to repair expenses you likely have lost income. Again document everything as you cannot have too much proof of any of your losses. Additionally, just because insurance may not cover a loss does not mean that those losses are not recoverable in Court or by settlement.

* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the PG&E lawsuits, and should not be received as legal advice. If you are already represented by legal counsel please rely upon them for information and advice. No guarantees or representations about the success of the PG&E lawsuits can be drawn from this information.

PG&E has a history of causing fires and burning down homes. In fact, there are a number of cases brought before the California Supreme Court involving claims against PG&E. Irelan-Yuba Gold Quartz mining Co. V. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 116 P.2d 611 (Cal. 1941); Beresford V. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 290 P.2d 498 (Cal. 1955). In the 1990 Campbell fire in Tehama County, PG&E burned over 125,892 acres and 27 structures. In 1994, in the Nevada County fires PG&E caused a large fire which lead to PG&E being criminally convicted for failing to trim trees and 34 structures burning. In 2015, PG&E caused the Butte fires and burned 921 structures.

Other fires caused by electric lines include the 1923 Berkeley fire, the 1970 Laguna fire, the 1990 Campbell fire, the 2007 San Diego fires, the 2007 Malibu fire, the Rice fire in 2007, the Butte fire in 2015, and the October 2017 North Bay fires. Electric lines are known sources of ignition for major fires.

In one example of a more extreme case, San Diego Gas & Electric paid out more than $2 billion to insurance companies, governmental agencies, homeowners, business owners, and others who suffered damage in 2007 when sparking power lines ignited brush in a remote area and started three major fires. The fires resulted in two deaths and the destruction of more than 1,200 homes and businesses. SDG&E conceded it was their equipment that sparked some of the blazes, but never admitted liability.

In 2007, the Malibu fires that burned more than a dozen structures were caused by Southern California Edison utility poles that fell during heavy winds; they paid $63.5 million in fines.

* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the PG&E lawsuits, and should not be received as legal advice.  If you are already represented by legal counsel please rely upon them for information and advice. No guarantees or representations about the success of the PG&E lawsuits can be drawn from this information.