PG&E Neglected Power Lines for Years Leading up to the Camp Fire

In November of 2018, California experienced its most devastating fire to date. The Camp Fire took the lives of 85 people and 19,000 properties were either damaged or destroyed in its wake. Northern California’s Butte County endured the fire for weeks on end. Reporting by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has since determined that Pacific Gas and Electric Company, or PG&E, was responsible for these California wildfires.

The California Wildfire Cause and the PG&E Fire Lawsuit Deadline

For years, PG&E was systemically neglecting routine maintenance for its equipment. Recent reporting from the California Public Utilities Commission’s Safety and Enforcement Division indicates that the average life expectancy of a transmission tower is 65 years. It also indicates that a sample of towers needs to be inspected every 3 to 5 years.

PG&E, however, had failed to properly inspect its towers for years, relying instead on aerial and ground views of its towers. This oversight led to the malfunction of the 96-year-old Caribou-Palermo transmission line which sparked the Camp Fire. This old tower was well beyond the 65-year mark. According to the SED report, it had not been properly inspected since 2001, a 17-year gap in inspection.

Additionally, inefficient documenting procedures contributed to the California wildfire cause. Inspections of PG&E’s equipment did not reveal documentation of worn hardware. Loose anchors and worn hooks went overlooked and neglected. According to a report from NBC, the malfunction of the Caribou-Palermo transmission line’s “C hook” may have directly caused the fire. Proper inspections should have led to the identification of this defective piece of hardware. This means that adequate maintenance should have prevented the Camp Fire.

PG&E Fire Claims

Now that the cause of the Camp Fire has been pinned down, those affected should know their options. PG&E lawsuits filed by individuals impacted by the fire put pressure on the company, which faced $30 billion in potential liabilities. The company decided to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a result. PG&E then created a $105 million assistance fund to help those affected by the deadly California wildfire. While this fund still faces criticism, its approval came in May of 2019.

Many of those affected have yet to file a PG&E fire lawsuit. Estimates find that less than half of those who are eligible to file have actually done so. Some take these estimates to indicate the failure of PG&E to properly publicize their assistance fund. Another reason for the lack of PG&E fire claims may be due to the displacement of California residents. Advertising for the assistance fund may not reach those who have fled California in the fire’s wake. Others are simply unaware that filing a PG&E fire lawsuit is an option for them.

Deadline for Filing PG&E Fire Claims Extended

For these reasons, the presiding judge over PG&E’s bankruptcy case has extended the deadline for filing a PG&E fire lawsuit. Previously, residents affected by the wildfire had until October 21 to file their claims. Now, the deadline for filing PG&E fire claims is 5 pm on December 31, 2019.

Compensation from a PG&E fire lawsuit may cover a number of expenses that residents incurred as a result of the Camp Fire. These include funeral expenses for lost loved ones. It also includes expenses for personal injuries sustained in the fire, such as burns. Other compensation may cover property damage for homes and automobiles, among others. In some cases, compensation for emotional distress is also available.

How to File a PG&E Fire Claim

Victims of the California Camp Fire should speak with an experienced attorney about possible options. If you are thinking about filing a PG&E lawsuit, you should contact an attorney immediately. Collecting the relevant documentation and information for your case may take time. Waiting to file a claim on the December 31 deadline may hurt your chances of receiving compensation.

You can reach our experienced attorneys at (866) 265-0874 for a case evaluation and free consultation.