Sonoma County’s 36,432-acre, Tubbs Fire was the most destructive wildfire in California history.
Officials estimate that the Tubbs Fire destroyed more than 5,500 structures, the majority of which were homes. Santa Rosa alone lost nearly 3,000 homes, which represents over 5% of Santa Rosa’s housing stock, including most of the Coffey Park neighborhood and a sizeable portion of the Fountaingrove neighborhood. It was also one of the deadliest fires in California history with at least 24 deaths related to the blaze in Sonoma County alone!
Who is Responsible for The Tubbs Fire and the others?
Our North Bay law firm believes PG&E, a 38 billion dollar publicly traded utility company providing power to the region is to blame for starting the fire Tubbs Fire, the Nuns Fire and the Atlas Fires which burned through Sonoma, Napa and part of Solano Counties.
Ongoing independent preliminary investigations indicates that the condition of PG&E’s power poles, power lines and equipment, i.e. transformers (negligent maintenance) together with improper and negligent tree removal or pruning resulted in starting the fires. PG&E power poles and transformers failed at wind speeds of well below the legally required sustained wind speeds of 56 MPH. Further, had PG&E employed the use of their recloser technology as they have implemented in Southern California, the fires would never have started in the first place. Reclosers immediately shut off the power whenever a tree falls into a power line or whenever a transformer blows, thus preventing the arching and sparking leading to the proliferation of fires.
On the night of October 8th, Sonoma County emergency dispatchers received hundreds of calls from residents reporting fallen power lines and exploding transformers when the wind speed was only 30 mph at the onset of the fires around 7:30 pm, but by 9:30 pm the wind speed in Calistoga near Tubbs lane where the fire had begun was only clocked in at 40 mph by nearby weather stations. Again, this was well below PG&E’s legal requirement to keep their power lines, power poles and transformers properly functioning at sustained winds speeds of 56 mph.
Before fire crews and local officials knew it, the fires had spread uncontrollably throughout Northern California’s Wine Country. It was in the next 8-10 hours, while many were asleep, that the fires were most deadly as unsuspecting residents were caught without any warning. In most cases the fortunate fled their homes with little more than the clothes on their back only to find out days later that their homes, and everything they cherished were gone.
- The San Bruno Fire Explosion Case: This would not be the first time PG&E’s negligence was deemed to be the cause of a deadly and devastating Fire in Northern California, as the San Bruno pipeline explosion in 2010 resulted in the deaths of 8 people and wiped out an entire Bay Area neighborhood. PG&E got the maximum sentence, fined 1.6 Billion and was deemed a convicted felon in the San Bruno case since they were caught and convicted of hiding and trying to destroy records and files pertaining to their role in the pipeline explosion case. PG&E paid out over $655 million to over 100 victims who filed lawsuits.
- 1994 Sierra Blaze: PG&E was found guilty of 739 counts of negligence for failure to trim trees and maintain their power lines. This resulted in a settlement of over $30 million dollars for a wild fire that destroyed 12 homes and a schoolhouse in a very sparsely populated area of the State of California, Nevada County.
- 2015 Butte Fire—Amador/ Calvares Counties: This is a wild fire very similar to the Tubbs, Nuns, Atlas and Pocket Fires that just ravaged northern California’s wine country. The fires were caused by PG&E’s lack of tree maintenance, and the utility admitted in sworn court depositions that they were behind in their tree cutting and trimming which contributed to the fires when wind speeds reached 30-40 mph. In the Butte fire PG&E paid out over $1 billion to over 1,000 plaintiffs and a partial settlement of $350 million for 100 plaintiffs.
The saying in California is THREE strikes and you are out! Here, these three recent cases show a callous disregard and recklessness toward the public and coupled together with PG&E’s status as a convicted FELON on Probation a jury will FIND PUNITIVE DAMAGES for thousands of Northern California plaintiffs which we believe could reach $10-15 Billion in compensation for the 8-10,000 potential plaintiffs in the case of the Northern California Wine Country Fires this past October 2017.
Should PG&E’s negligence be to blame for the Tubbs Fire and the other Wine County Fires? Our Team of Attorneys and fire experts suspect that PG&E will be held responsible for compensating fire victims for their losses beyond any claims that would be covered by a victims’ homeowners’ insurance. This would also include the real value of the TREES destroyed on the property. Emotional stress damages could be very significant and this alone is worth suing PG&E since homeowners’ insurance covers structures and contents, not emotional stress or physical injury from fleeing a 60-foot wall of flames in the middle of the night! Lastly, PG&E will more than likely be required to pay