Paul Payne | The Press Democrat

As the number of October wildfire lawsuits against PG&E swelled close to 40, a group of Santa Rosa lawyers filed legal papers Friday seeking to consolidate them all in Sonoma County Superior Court.

The request made to the Judicial Council of California opposes a separate effort from a Southern California-based lawyer to have the cases overseen by a San Francisco court.

It argues the lawsuits belong in Sonoma County, where fires burned 137 square miles, killed 24 people and destroyed 5,130 homes. The most devastating of the blazes, the Tubbs fire, roared into northern Santa Rosa, wiping out whole neighborhoods from Fountaingrove to Coffey Park.

“The fact is this is a Sonoma County tragedy,” said attorney John Cox. “It’s where the evidence is located and where the witnesses are. It should be handled by Sonoma County courts.”

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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):

 – 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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THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | November 4, 2017, 3:35PM

With nearly the intensity of a fast-burning wildfire, lawyers from across the country have swept into Santa Rosa in search of clients who suffered losses in the recent blazes and want to sue PG&E, seeking billions of dollars in potential damages.

Seemingly overnight, out-of-town firms have moved in and set up shop, soliciting business through newspaper and billboard ads, informational meetings at hotel ballrooms and social media.

The rush is happening as many local lawyers who lost their own homes are still digging out from the rubble or awaiting the results of official investigations to determine the cause of the fires.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Patrick Emery, a partner in the Santa Rosa firm of Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & Emery, where several members lost their homes. “This community has never had a disaster of this scale so we haven’t experienced it here.”

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THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | November 3, 2017, 6:01PM

A tug-of-war is brewing over whether Sonoma County or San Francisco courts should handle the thousands of wildfire lawsuits expected to emerge against PG&E.

Lawyers representing one group of plaintiffs argue San Francisco is a better venue because the court is larger and has the administrative capacity for more complex cases. They have petitioned the California Judicial Council to appoint one San Francisco judge to oversee all pretrial matters including depositions, hearings and evidence disputes.But other lawyers seeking damages against PG&E say the cases belong in Sonoma County where the fires charred about 100,000 acres, destroyed 4,000 homes and killed 23 people. They are seeking to block a move across the Golden Gate to PG&E’s headquarters city with their own Judicial Council motion.

“Why would I want to fight the case in PG&E’s backyard?” Santa Rosa attorney Roy Miller said in a press conference Friday outside the Sonoma County courthouse. “It’s insane to go to San Francisco.”

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